Curfew knee-jerk, short sighted, inflaming: NAAJA

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Letter to the Editor

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) is concerned and dismayed by a move by the NT government to impose an “emergency” youth curfew in Alice Springs in an apparent bid to tackle crime.

The curfew, coupled with a decision to send dozens of additional police officers to the town, appears to have been made without community consultation.

The decision risks inflaming problems in the region.

If this knee-jerk policy is in response to reports of violence outside the Todd Tavern it is misguided and misplaced as the incident is understood to have occurred during the daytime and primarily involved adults.

While a tragic car accident claiming the life of a 19-year-old man several weeks ago allegedly involved adults, not minors.

A youth curfew will not address the very real challenges facing Alice Springs and surrounding communities – it’s nothing more than a short-sighted quick fix that demonises young people and risks inflaming tensions and escalating problems.

Further, there appears to have been no consultation, including with support services that most certainly will need to be called upon.

A curfew is a blunt instrument and does not seem to factor in that many young people have after-school sports and part-time jobs in the evening, while for others, home isn’t always the safest place.

So many questions remain unanswered, including what do police intend to do in the event a young person is not at home during the imposed curfew hours. Will these minors face charges as a result, further criminalising their behaviour?

NAAJA implores the NT Government to immediately back down from this draconian and potentially disastrous plan.

We ask the Chief Minister and the Police Minister to speak with us and speak with Aboriginal leaders in the community to explain what this curfew will mean.

Territorians are right to be concerned about crime and offending.

If we are going to come up with solutions that work for Aboriginal people in Alice Springs, then Aboriginal people need to be involved and working together with government to improve community safety.

The underlying drivers of crime and offending are complex, and over-policing is not the solution.

Instead, the Northern Territory urgently needs an evidence-based approach to stopping the cycle, such as meaningful investments in programs and initiatives that better support people, including children and teenagers, with employment, education, and health, including issues around the misuse of drugs or alcohol.

Principal Legal Officer Jared Sharp, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.

3 COMMENTS

  1. A large group of angry, grief-stricken community members headed to town bent on expressing their feelings and exacting payback, as they are obliged to do under their own law (but on country not in town says the CLC).
    This was a cultural response and nothing to do with a lack of investment in communities.
    Many people and groups that are well funded to safeguard our town knew what was coming and appear to have done nothing.
    In particular:
    Community based police knew.
    Tangentyere knew.
    The Central Land Council knew.
    Aboriginal leaders everywhere knew.
    How could our local police not know?
    What was needed was a proactive response coordinated between all the relevant agencies to head this off.
    Instead, we get uncontrolled and illegal mob behaviour that tarnished our town’s reputation once again.
    The belated response is an irrelevant youth curfew.
    The mob from the communities will probably go back home now and the curfew will be declared a success.
    This has highlighted serious shortcomings in communication, co-ordination and response among the agencies tasked with keeping our town safe.

  2. @ Ralph, you said, rightly: “Serious shortcomings in communication, co-ordination and response among the agencies tasked with keeping our town safe.”
    I would like to add: Paid by rates and taxes payers to do a job.
    We should be told how much national / federal funds those agencies receive.

  3. I would assume that all the well-meaning, but misguided nevertheless people like yourself, who offer no real-time solution, have not been on the receiving end of crime as they are happening on our streets and in our town daily.
    If you were, undoubtedly, you would choose your words a bit more carefully I would hope.
    We can agree that the situation is dire, kids are neglected and their parents are either unable or unwilling to guide them safely and effectively through their childhood.
    The reasons are varied and complex, no doubt. Why any authority or government is willing to support or not remove the ability of people to access mostly tax-payers money to fuel one’s addiction in whatever way shape or form that may be, is simply breathtaking.
    You throw big words around like “evidence-based approach” and “over-policing” but fail to mention with any word the hundreds of victims that have their own trauma to deal with every day.
    Maybe it is not your job to worry and address the victims, but it sure should be. Maybe, members of your organisation are the very same, that have been seen high-fiving juveniles outside the court after successfully getting them off yet again, but I sure hope not.
    Maybe you would prefer the Federal Police or even the Australian Army to start patrolling the streets but I’m quite certain you don’t want that either.
    Victims are on both sides and it’s about time, good-doers like yourself start acknowledging that and start talking and acting accordingly.
    You may not have realised it just as yet or live in a parallel universe, but our streets are a war zone.
    Your organisation amongst many others is funded by my taxpayer’s money and there is little to no return from what I can see on my investment except asking for more and supporting even more initiatives of which none have contributed anything to make a lasting and effective difference.

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