Friday, March 24, 2023

Crime control authorities: Answers, please

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When it comes to dealing with social and crime problems in Alice Springs, what are the legal obligations of government departments and publicly funded NGOs?

How well are they following their mission statements?

How much taxpayers’ money do they get and how are they spending it?

What are their key performance indicators? Are they achieved?

Getting answers to these questions is the objective of the group spawned by the huge town hall meeting on January 30.

The group’s task isn’t fixing the problems, but it will demand transparency from the people getting paid to fix them.

That was the spirit at the group’s second meeting yesterday, covering a wide range of issues, and chaired by Garth Thompson who initiated the town hall meeting.

The 18 people attending were all white, about half each men and women, and most in their 50s and 60s.

Several mentioned having had recent contacts with Aboriginal people, and they were aware of a rumoured meeting of 200 Aboriginal people following the town hall meeting.

Children tend not to misbehave in homelands but do when they get to come to Alice Springs, one speaker said.

Elders in a homeland dealt resolutely and successfully with misbehaving children, applying their “own law”. Police became involved and a conflict with elders ensued. That is causing ongoing tension in that community.

A 24-hour youth centre was seen as a major necessity, a safe place for kids with food, showers and beds, but “lock-in style” – not permitting them to leave during the night.

Their carers and guardians are often distant aunties or grandmothers, overburdened with looking after children.

There is no shortage of empty locations or places that can be use or expanded for a youth centre. The former police station (opposite the current one in Parsons Street), the Gap Youth Centre (which is getting a $20m Federal grant for redevelopment), CAAAPU and the former Memorial Club (now owned by Congress) were mentioned.

A businessman from Katherine at the meeting described the deteriorating situation with young people in his town. He had to fit his shop with 10mm plate glass windows. The government should pay for the expenses resulting from crime and vandalism. No luck with that so far, he said.

Mr Thompson said plans for a $1.5 billion class action is still on the table. It was mentioned in the town hall meeting, suing the NT Government for failing to provide safety for its citizens.

The likely legal costs were discussed, including pro bono representation, Federal government-funded legal aid for Aboriginal people, and collateral provided by private people.

The claim would need to be precisely formulated to enhance its success, a speaker said.

The meeting was told Commissioner of Police Jamie Chalker gave a point-blank refusal to have a 000 response facility in Alice Springs, dealing with local calls. The Darwin-based facility is frequently ignorant of locations here, leading to delayed responses.

It was also suggested that the 000 facility was “overwhelmed” given the increase in crime across the Territory’s major centres.

The group will set up a website.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, during his visit to Alice Springs, invited suggestions of how to deal with the crime problem.

That presents an opportunity of going “right to the top,” as one speaker suggested.

Much disappointment was expressed with NT Government efforts to revitalise the Alice Springs economy.

The reason given is the absence of government Members of Parliament from the region.

Meanwhile Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says in a media release today that Darwin’s CBD is “bursting with development.

“The Labor Government continues to transform [it] into a thriving and vibrant place for people to work, visit and live.”

  • The old Ducks Nuts and BCC Cinemas sites are set to be revitalised with the DCA approving two development permits for bars with alfresco dining.
  • The Mitchell Street location (formerly BCC cinemas) will feature an indoor function room, leisure and recreation facilities and a band/DJ room for live music.
  • A new 72 room accommodation in an eight storey block has also been given the green light to be built at Shepherd Street, which will be able to house international students.

“The Territory is taking off,” says Ms Fyles. “Our construction industry is on the up and more people are deciding to call the Territory home.

“We will continue to do everything we can to make the Territory the best destination to live and work.”

And the Town Council meeting tomorrow will consider a motion to stop community football – teams from out bush – in Alice Springs.

Cr Marli Banks says: “Alice Springs at this time is not resourced or resilient enough to manage further risk to public safety.”

UPDATE February 28, 1:51pm: Cr Banks has texted the News advising that she had voted against a motion by Cr Michael Liddle to stop community football in Alice Springs. She added about her employment initiative reported here: “My motion lost too.”

This article appeared on Alice Springs News on 27 February 2023.


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