A total ban of fracking and comprehensive initiatives for dealing with troublesome children are key platforms for the Greens who are standing three candidates in The Centre.
Peltherre Chris Tomlins, an Arrernte Elder and human rights activist, is joining the crowded field of candidates in Braitling.
Bernard Hickey, Psychiatrist with 20 years professional service in the Territory, is the candidate for Araluen.
Nikki McCoy, Arts Therapist employed in NT prisons, is standing in Namatjira.
JULIUS DENNIS spoke with them. Ms McCoy and Dr Hickey, who are partners, replied to questions together.
NEWS: A small but troublesome group of out-of-control kids are committing crimes. What do you suggest as the best way forward to curb this and settle tensions?
TOMLINS: Reconnecting the kids back on country to their family and culture. This gets them off the streets where they are causing trouble. I do not support the use of a curfew. This will mean more kids in custody and more institutionalisation. Better to have a 24 hours, 7-day accessible refuge to temporarily house these kids and reconnect them back to country. People need to realise not all these kids are Arrernte kids, they sometimes come from far away and caught up in the current system.
NEWS: Whom do you see as key groups that can help in regard to this?
TOMLINS: Government and Indigenous organisations can get behind community initiatives like Children’s Ground and Dreaming Australia that did the Bonnet Series on my home community at Snake Well. We have already had many in the Alice Springs community and business wanting to help. We now need a way so they can help, volunteering to share their skills and upskill our kids. This is what we see as self-determination in practice. We strengthen Alice Springs’ community by strengthening communities, out on country.
NEWS: What role should the police play?
TOMLINS: I support the concept of restorative justice as advocated by retired police officer Terry O’Connell and others. The Remote Indigenous Parenting Association (RIPA) have had a number of very successful trials where they deal with problem kids in the context of relationships not just to the law but to their family, to the community, to the victims of crime. Peace should be at the centre of this mediating role.
McCOY, HICKEY: We must increase support and therapies for children and their families and communities. Police should support this in a facilitator role as per restorative policing practices, making police part of the therapy process. Police will need training in trauma informed care, unconscious bias training, history of colonisation in Alice Springs, debriefing and supervision by trained therapists, and training in nonviolent communication.
NEWS: The tourist industry in Alice Springs (not Ayers Rock Resort) has been in long-time decline before COVID. It now needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, how do suggest this is done?
TOMLINS: Tourism will not stop. People want to come to the centre. It comes and goes; we should not get caught up on that. The country and the people remain forever. This is what attracts people to the Territory. So, let’s build the culture.
McCOY, HICKEY: COVID changes everything and forces domestic market as per border and internal management COVID needs. There is no guarantee of any quick fix, so we agree it is a time to build from the ground up. Much tourism is likely to be by road. Upgrades of facilities at roadhouses is needed. Make the road into Alice attractive.
NEWS: What role should Aborigines have in tourism?
McCOY, HICKEY: We need to provide support to Aboriginal people who express a desire run tourism ventures. Aboriginal cultural tourism is scant. A huge effort involving and led by Aboriginal Custodians could be developed, for example, all signage for places should be primarily the Aboriginal name to express a desire to run tourism. Tourism old and new needs to be made restorative, non-invasive culturally and environmentally.
NEWS: What role do big events take?
McCOY, HICKEY: Tourism is part of the general story about Alice Springs vitality. There are already many attractive events already in Alice Springs in the tourist season. We need promotion of what is unique and special about Alice Springs.
NEWS: What can be done about the town’s centre?
McCOY, HICKEY: It needs to be revitalised through culture and arts and rent adjustments to assist new and inventive start-up ventures. All tourism needs to be incentivised to be environmentally restorative in practice. This is necessary in this time of climate heating and environmental degradation and can be an attraction. For example, the Finke Desert Race could have an electric vehicle section
NEWS: How should our national parks be managed to make them the tourist attraction they deserve to be?
TOMLINS: Banning fracking is vital for protecting national parks and tourism. Indigenous ranger programs are a great success and we should employ more Indigenous rangers and allow them to educate the public and other national parks’ staff.
McCOY, HICKEY: Feral animals and plants run amok in them while community people get downgraded by CDP’s useless activities. As so often requested by Aboriginal Custodians, I support getting them out there in important stewardship jobs that tune into their best spirit. Parks are under stress from climate heating, anything we can do to stop this e.g. ban fracking, clean energy, will help.,
NEWS: Will you make the national Aboriginal art gallery a reality? How?
TOMLINS: As an Arrernte Elder I support a National Aboriginal Art gallery in Alice Springs. I am not in a position to comment on the location as this is a decision for the custodians of any site.
McCOY, HICKEY: Site decisions will be led by Traditional Custodians of sites.
NEWS: Do you have plans for water management – exploration, fracking, recycling?
TOMLINS: The NT and Australian Greens policy is total ban on fracking. That’s all fracking. This is the only way to have long term protection of water. We live in a desert climate. I would then focus on basic issues of water security like installing 10-20,000 litre rainwater tanks on houses. Solar energy is an obvious solution for the Territory. This may need government subsidies.
McCOY, HICKEY: We need sound ecological management, reversing carbon pollution. Stopping fracking and other activities that do not care for water security. Water security is a prime policy of the NT Greens and we’ll legislate a right to safe drinking water in the NT.
NEWS: What would you do about flood mitigation?
ALL THREE: We have read the 2017 NT DIPL report on flood prevention in Alice Springs. We have no objections to its limited scope of action, but action is necessary. The community education and preparation sections need to include retro converting properties to slow flood runoff e.g. absorbent surfaces, rainwater tanks, swales, which can reduce town area contribution and be restorative to water security and land.
NEWS: What about works in the catchment ares, a dam, for example?
ALL THREE: Similar non-invasive measures to reduce rapid runoff in the catchments can be added, working with Aboriginal custodians. Reversing climate heating with clean energy development and no fracking are basic to reducing severe floods including promoting ground cover to reduce rapid run off and erosion.
NEWS: What would be your measures for reducing our debt to a per-capita level comparable with the other states?
NEWS: This is not feasible in the short term but with maximal and sustained measures to improve environmental, social and personal health and local self sufficiency input costs will decrease dramatically in the medium to long term.
TOMLINS: What I would like to know is, with such a small population and many of us especially, Indigenous people basically in poverty, how is it possible the Territory can be in such debt. Where did the money go?
NEWS: What are your thoughts about decreasing reliance of our economy on government handouts and attracting entrepreneurs boosting the economy through their own initiatives?
TOMLINS: We already have programs like the Bonnet series which was an entrepreneur initiative of the northern Arrernte communities where we have brought artists and technology into communities to share their skills with us and we share our culture and country. We can provide jobs for Alice Springs people and the kids now on the streets, but we think we can do this best as community exchange.
McCOY, HICKEY: In a COVID world entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged at all levels especially locally including micro businesses, leading to sustainable, widespread and resilient self sustaining economy that is resistant to downturns due to its variety. These need to be culturally, environmentally, and socially restorative businesses as these are the only ways to growth in medium to long term
NEWS: Should the Feds again take over the NT?
TOMLINS: When over 80% of Territorians have repeatedly said no to fracking yet we know the Commonwealth Coalition is pro gas because of their multi million dollar business donations received from the fossil fuel industry, and the Federal Government also forced the military Intervention on us thirteen years ago, we 100% need more independence from the Feds not less and a better, healthier renewable energy society in the Territory.
McCOY, HICKEY: The Feds should not take over the NT. They and the NT Government need to make and implement healthier policies for people and environment. A better question would be should the smaller community councils be brought back? Yes. We will support the formation of decision-making bodies in communities which are representative of all community members and cede control of policy-making to those bodies. Government has a role in drawing together stakeholders and other organisations with community leaders to share fair partnerships.
NEWS: Who will you give your preferences to?
TOMLINS: For me, the two main issues in this election are banning fracking and kids on country. So whichever candidates have the best action plan on these issues and other NT Greens policies will get my preferences. The CLP are pro-fracking. Territory Alliance is partially pro-fracking. The ALP betrayed the people of the Territory in the Gunner deal.
McCOY, HICKEY: We will give our preferences, in order, to whichever candidates are closest to the Greens’ NT policies overall, without fear or favour, without any preference deals.