This is a very weird one. When I parted company …

Comment on Send in the taskforce: councillor by Bob Durnan.

This is a very weird one. When I parted company with Tangentyere, town camp leaders had been regularly holding meetings with police over many years, sometimes on the camps, and the issue most often was how to get the police to pay more attention to the camps, provide more regular patrols, and be more responsive to calls for help. I am pretty certain there had never been any request to police from any elected town camp leaders for them not to enter town camps.
I have never heard about any request by the town camp leaders for police to keep “out of the camps after dark” or get “permits to enter” the camps.
There was never any legal requirement for police to obtain permits to enter town camp leases, as legally the roads within the town camp leases had the status of public thoroughfares, by virtue of customary use by many members of the public, and no permit system operated in relation to them.
Town camp residents did try to prevent fast food vendors, tourist buses, door to door insurance salespeople and other such commercial operators from entering town camps without first seeking permission from Tangentyere.
They made this request by posting signs at the entrances of the leases asking these people to seek permission, but this was basically a request for courtesy, co-operation and respect, and did not (and could not) legally apply to public servants, politicians, police, meter readers, dog inspectors and other such people going about their normal business.
Is this idea that police for some reason weren’t able to enter the camps something that police decided themselves, or is it another product of Steve Brown’s fertile and perhaps somewhat over-active imagination?
Is Cr Brown able to produce any documentation to substantiate his allegation?

Bob Durnan Also Commented

Send in the taskforce: councillor
Rex (Rex Neindorf, Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm):
The issue here is more that some observers, like Cr Brown, seldom seem able to resist gilding the lily, or making up “facts”, becoming extravagant in their language, and exaggerating the problems, when presented with the opportunity to comment on the circumstances of Aboriginal people or the government systems and social services with which they are involved.
Public commentary by elected figures should be balanced, scrupulously factual and responsible. It should not be unnecessarily provocative or making inaccurate implications.
This is all the more important in the emotionally and politically charged atmosphere of life in frontier towns like Alice Springs, where elements of radically different but deeply embedded social systems, cultural imperatives and economic interests and aspirations of the distinct groups are often in such strong practical contradiction to each other, or at least appear to many people to be so. In these places, where catastrophic historical events are still torturously unfolding and causing serious social, cultural and economic problems and fears, it is vitally important that we all attempt to stay as calm and clear thinking as possible, and endeavour, as far as we are able, to work together in respectful and trusting relationships.
Maybe you could meditate on the fact that not all “do-gooders” are stupid, or “bad-doers”.
Although it may be true that many, even most, “lawyers, politicians, government officials, judges and do-gooders have all had a hand in [creation and maintenance of the social dysfunction] as well”, their roles have probably been no greater, and in many cases have probably been less, than that of some historic and present actors whom you have conspicuously omitted from your hit-list of blame.
I have in mind the roles, attitudes and acts, or failures to act, of certain pastoral pioneers, police, prison guards, miners, tourism developers, gambling venue proprietors, community opinion leaders, investors, other entrepreneurs and many members of the general public, not to mention liquor licensees and other drug dealers, who must also share some of the blame with us “do-gooders” for helping create some of the dysfunction, in their various ways, over the years.


Send in the taskforce: councillor
Re Steve Brown (Posted June 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm): More baloney from Steve. Town camps are special purpose leases Steve: traditional owners (TOs) were generally not involved, other than advising where people seeking the leases should or shouldn’t be camping or disturbing the land.
The leases were not obtained under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA). Under Malcolm Fraser’s ALRA 1976, no land rights claims by TOs are permitted within town boundaries.
The town camp leases were granted, with conditions and caveats, to the applicant town camp associations and corporations, whose members were the residents, after formal applications were made and negotiated.
This was the same process that applied to other leaseholders within the town boundaries – for example, caravan parks, sporting clubs etc.
I was referring to a member of the public having the courtesy to ask before s/he presumed to conduct business on somebody’s lease, other than entering on the roadways with good reason. This was never an issue for the police, as they were asked to help provide security from the beginning.
Are you implying that police used supposed lack of permission as “an excuse for not entering Town Camps particularly after dark”, despite no legal reason for such permission being needed? I very much doubt that this was the case.
Once again: are you able to produce any proof for such an allegation? The many meetings with police about these issues were documented in minutes and protocols. You seem to be wanting to create yet another urban myth about the town camps.
Of course the town camps were often not safe places: most of them were awash with beer and wine much of the time, before and after they were granted leasehold titles.
Violence was widespread. That is why the town camp leaders were always keen to have as much police presence as possible.
There was no ‘golden age’ of trouble-free, non-violent town camps. Policing efforts varied, but I doubt that there was a period of a few years prior to the NTER when they didn’t visit after dark, or when problems were significantly greater than they had been for decades prior, since the advent of socially inappropriate unconditional welfare in a town with very easy access to alcohol.
I would also be interested to learn more about the “paternalistic commentary on the existence of traditional forms of justice in these places, put about by patronizing do-gooding bureaucrats and academics, [which] had given our community all the excuse it needed to sit idly by and watch the ensuing mayhem”.
I am intrigued. Once again, this sounds like fantasy, gossip or urban myth. What form did this “commentary” on town camps take? Where and when was it published? How did it have the impact you describe without being apparent to people like myself who have observed town camp life and problems closely for several decades?
I would like to put to you that the problems of violence and thuggery that you identify have been identified by many others for a very long time, with great efforts having been made to control or reduce them by certain town camp leaders, Tangentyere staff, many police, the night patrollers and others.
The so far insurmountable problem which they have all faced and by which they have all been defeated, so far, is the ready availability of alcohol, and the widespread habit held by many town campers and their visitors of consuming it to excess.
A permanent presence of “the police taskforce” may be necessary, but in itself it would be insufficient to deal with all the problems caused by having the alcohol tap turned up so high and grog being so freely available to alcohol-dependent people and their visitors.
Nothing would help the police and everybody else concerned as much as would a sensible floor price on alcohol, a day or two free from alcohol sales per week, and later commencement hours for bars.
On another issue that you raised: I hope that you agree with Macklin’s Stronger Futures proposal (not yet passed by the Senate) to scrap the automatic banning of alcohol on town camps, and replace it with Alcohol Management Plans generated by the permanent residents of the camp leases.
In relation to Erwin’s mention of the threat to sue journalists entering town camps, or have them charged with trespass: this would have been an interesting legal exercise.
As Tangentyere Council has never held the town camp leases, it would seem unlikely that it could ever have launched such an action on its own.
It is probable that some town camp leaders at times would have wished to keep journalists from interviewing people on their leases. I imagine that they could have sought injunctions to achieve this effect, but as this, to my knowledge, has never been done, it remains untested.
I don’t imagine that magistrates would have generally looked favourably on attempts to have journalists convicted of trespass for having tried to investigate important public interest stories by putting questions to people on the town camp leases. Perhaps you have been bluffed.
[ED – Bob, it didn’t stop us from reporting on the camps and giving camp dwellers a voice in a mass medium.]


Recent Comments by Bob Durnan

Police want parents to stop youth crime
Evelyne, you forget that half the adults of Alice work under contracts that forbid them from speaking publicly.
Others fear the repercussions to their employment, business prospects or social acceptance if they speak up and are seen as being trouble makers, unconventional or damaging to certain vested interests.
Their only recourse is to use nom de plumes, or remain completely silent.


Torrent of toxic Facebook posts after Mall melee
Russell Guy (Posted below on July 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm), as you and Sue Fielding (Posted below on July 14, 2018 at 8:46 am) both posit, “generational trauma, racism, alcohol abuse and domestic violence [are] some of the reasons for anti-social behavior among the young people responsible [for much crime and disturbance in our town]”.
What you and many others fail to recognise is that Chief Minister Michael Gunner, Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield, and most other NT Cabinet members share this analysis. They are collectively taking serious steps to address these problems as quickly as possible.
They are doing this via several important measures, including by working in partnerships with Aboriginal community groups, organisations and remote communities to establish and support new out of home care and rehabilitation services; designing and building new therapeutic and educational rehabilitation institutions; as well as by assisting Alice Springs and other regional centres to develop positive directions and strategies.
As you observe, “Anger and frustration are two of the motivational issues, [as well as] mindless vandalism, which is existential for many kids”. However, anger, frustration and mindless vandalism, when permitted to flourish during the child’s development phases, can themselves become a driving habitual mode of operation and subconscious rationale for living.
These ingrained compulsions may be so strong that they become a huge obstacle to rehabilitation, and a powerful force undermining workers’ attempts to undertake generalised prevention strategies and early interventions with other young people who may be shaping up to replicate the patterns set by the dominant role models in their peer groups.
It is ignorant and patronising to suggest that [the politicians] are not completely aware of the need for investing “in healing, strengthening and skilling up young people”, and that they are not committed to achieving this as soon as possible.
The Chief Minister is providing strong support for both a national Aboriginal art gallery, and a national Indigenous cultural centre, in Alice Springs. He is also funding extra development of regional art centre facilities and staff accommodation in remote communities to help attract international tourists to spend time in Central Australia.
He is doing this to help provide direction for the town and region, responding to the requests by Indigenous leaders over many years.
His vision will extend the tourist season to year round activities, as these facilities will be air-conditioned and enable comfortable extended holiday breaks for Asian, European and North American visitors during the northern winter.
Trevor Shiell has some fine ideas, but he fails to see that the art gallery needs to be at the heart of the town, where it will maximise involvement not only of tourists, but also of townspeople on a daily basis, particularly local Aboriginal people, via jobs, training, social and cultural activities, and family events. A place to be very proud of, in a town that is providing futures for our youth, including Aboriginal youth.


Turn rock-throwing into backflips: how community can help
Nice exposition Rainer. Some very useful ideas and analysis there.
However, in relation to your advocacy for volunteer based programmes, such as on bus runs, night patrols or supervision of activities: I believe that it would be a grave error to make assumptions about the practicalities of these proposals.
Recent experience indicates that Alice does not have a reliable supply of such volunteers.
The midnight basketball came a cropper a few years back because of this factor.
The Uniting Church’s Meeting Place is not open very often for the same reason.
All the main existing youth spaces have appealed for volunteers at times, without much response.
A proposal to run Saturday night football for youth during the last Christmas holiday period failed for the same reason.
If a bus run or patrol is to operate through the night, I believe that it must be staffed by professionally trained, paid workers.
On the buses, a small core section of the client group are not easy to handle, even for the best professionals. Playing mind games with the driver becomes an integral part of their night’s fun. Chopping and changing explanations about what their problems and needs are, contradictory requests about where to go, and, in some cases, manufacturing reasons for not going being able to go home, are all part of the challenging behaviours displayed by some of the very alienated clients.
Threatening drivers and other staff may be a regular way for some to get extra attention. These rebellions sometimes become contagious within the cohort.
Your point about the need to employ workers who are fully cognizant of trauma informed theory and practice is, I believe, extremely relevant in this type of work.
For some young people, simply staying up all night and on the streets is their major act of defiance. They get a sense of achievement and success in their rebellion, including strong peer recognition, by this simple act.
The Department of Children and Families’ old YSOS unit (Youth Street Outreach Service) was very effective in dealing with these young people and their very difficult habits, before it was so tragically shut down by the Robyn Lambley/Terry Mills/Adam Giles budget cuts of 2012/13.
At the time, Giles said this service was no longer needed, because it was not dealing with a lot of clients.
Predictably, after its disbanding, problems associated with youth out at night rose inexorably, until things returned to the levels that had been occurring ten years ago, just before the YSOS was started.
It would now be very useful to find the people who worked on the YSOS, and get their views about what worked and why.


The millions and the misery
Jones (Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:46 pm), you display an unreasonably negative and incorrigibly antagonistic attitude towards the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and its considerable achievements in the health field.
You may have heard the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? This certainly applies to you. You continually use your ignorance as a cloak for confidently, and very unfairly, maligning Congress.
For your information:
1. The primary causes of most renal disease are very long term, and are mainly associated with poverty. The impacts of the chronic stresses from living in poverty begin in utero, then early childhood, with kidney stones and infections much more common. The stress burdens and infections contribute to weaknesses in organs such as the kidneys. These experiences are all imprinted on a person in ways that may lead to renal disease in later life, irrespective of what health service a person attends. As already discussed, a great deal of the global obesity / diabetes epidemic is socially determined, and health services can only do so much on their own.
2. The rate of end stage renal failure requiring dialysis amongst Congress’s own long term resident clients is vastly less than the rate in the rest of remote central Australian Aboriginal communities. The rate in remote areas is generally more than eight times greater than the town. If you are going to use data, you should use it correctly.
3. There is no basis for your statement that “the [overall] incidence of this terminal disease [i.e. renal failure] is a good measure of the success or failure of diabetes programs for which Congress has responsibility”. The situation is much more complex, as explained above, and health services can only do so much.
4. In light of the above facts, there is no validity in your statement that “the incidence of end stage [renal] disease is out of control despite the tens of millions of funding provided to Congress.” Rather, it would appear that Congress’s funded programmes have contributed to the rate of end stage renal disease being much lower in the long term Alice Springs Aboriginal population than it would have been without those programmes.
Jonesy, it is now incumbent upon you to relinquish your pathological denial of Congress’s achievements, and “agree that Congress has long been a leader and good practitioner in prevention and early intervention strategies and practices.”


The millions and the misery
Yes Evelyne Roullet, I have heard of HTLV-1. It would be hard to not have, given the recent publicity.
But no, I don’t know how much Congress, or anybody else, contributes for research and cure of it.


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