Govt to put rock throwers into care as council passes buck

p2229-ambulance-damage

BREAKING NEWS (see below): Rock throwers may be put into care, parents may be fined for truant kids.

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

It was a “no, no, no and certainly not” type of meeting on Monday, suggesting that the town council would need to be dragged kicking and screaming from its rates, roads and rubbish comfort.

 

There was a resolute “no” to a call for a moratorium on fracking.

 

There was a “no way” on a youth curfew.

 

There was “no change” to the investment policy for the council’s substantial cash reserves, despite probing questions from Cr Jade Kudrenko.

 

PHOTO at right: Ambulance window smashed by rock throwing vandals.

 

And the “no” to  even the seemingly innocuous issue of “illuminated” street advertising drove Deputy Mayor Kylie Bonanni to visible exasperation, as council by-laws were found to be in the straightjacket of Australian Standards rather than subject to the common sense of an easy-going bush town.

 

As it was a committee meeting, all of these decisions still need to be ratified by the full meeting on April 28, but they seem to have zero chance of change, except if the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance can improve on its paltry 165 signatures on a petition presented to the council on Monday.

 

The slimmest chance of all initiatives is that of Cr Eli Melky’s proposition for a youth curfew for kids under 13. It got only one vote in favour – Cr Melky’s.

 

This is indicative of the degree to which the council is remote from public sentiment. Its decision coincides with an avalanche of rock throwing and property damage.

 

Yet seven of the eight elected members present (Cr Liz Martin is on six months leave) saw no need in this to even investigate how a curfew could deal with this scourge, perhaps making it easier to identify neglectful parents, or showing the need for a safe place to take those kids.

 

Today again the police issued damming statistics: Superintendent Travis Wurst said police took “34 people into protective custody last night, conveyed 77 youths home, and apprehended three youths for trespassing at a business on Bath Street”.

 

Far from coming up with some answers the council was indignant about a statement from Chief Minister Adam Giles – which turned out to be understandable wishful thinking.

 

On April 10 he had “congratulated Alice Springs Town Council and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress on their commitment to becoming part of the solution to youth issues in the town.

 

“The new arrangements will see the existing Town Council Rangers funded to expand their patrols to help manage young people on the streets at night.

 

“They will work alongside Congress staff to provide case management, connecting young people to broader services that can help them keep their lives on track.

 

“Detailed planning for this new three-way youth partnership is now underway.

 

“It’s great to be working with Congress, as well as both the CEO of the Town Council and the Mayor on the project.”

 

Nothing of the sort had been agreed upon, the council meeting on Monday was told by CEO Rex Mooney: the media release was a “complete surprise,” he said; figures had been provided but no action taken.

 

There had been two conversations, he had given no commitment, he gave figures, there was no formal correspondence, and he may need to revise the figures. Media outlets were given the release without consent of the council.

 

Cr Chansey Paech said it appeared the youth issue was being “handballed” to the council and that was not reasonable.

 

Cr Steve Brown said the press release may have been “premature … but we should be working with the government when we can about youth issues … discuss the use of rangers, not rule out anything … and have our hearts and souls in the discussion”.

 

All the same, the focus of Monday’s meeting was on finding ways to pass the buck.

 

Cr Paech said it was the responsibility NT Government to act on youth issues, they are obliged to provide a “statutory response”. There is no evidence about how many of these people are under 13. There is a need to reinstate the Youth Steet Outreach Services (by the government, of course).

 

The police have capacity to act, said Cr Paech. It’s the responsibility of the department.

 

Cr Brown said we’re all aware of the youth issues, children are not being looked after at home, parents don’t care.

 

There needs to be a “measured process” over the long term, not a “temporary fix, thorough and lasting” – clearly as long as it isn’t the council getting its hands dirty.

 

Cr Jade Kudrenko, stating the obvious, declared we’re facing “extremely challenging and difficult” circumstances, dysfunctional families, and we need to “keep working with the department and appropriate authorities”.

 

She said these are “big issues we need to respond to,” she was “passionate and concerned”, keen on working with ministers and departments and having robust and frank discussions – “work with people”.

 

Mayor Damien Ryan claimed this was a “bigger issue than a motion out of this chamber” could deal with “for something that the council is not resourced [for]”. More needs to be done “than just chasing people out of the mall and rounding them up”.

 

Mayor Ryan lamented the Federal removal of funds from councils and regional councils.

 

Bush people are attracted to the “bright lights,” he said. Housing in the town camps is inadequate and new “leasing arrangements have removed opportunities to act on visitors”.

 

Cr Brendan Heenan, attending by a frequently inaudible phone link, said he would not support Cr Melky on the curfew.

 

Cr Dave Douglas said the same, adding that a lot more work would need to be done, and that we need more youth services in the town.

 

Cr Melky, again out on a limb, said it was the third time a curfew motion had been put, previously by Aldermen Robyn Lambley and Murray Stewart – all in response to spates of violence and vandalism.

 

He said members of the public had recently taken action to stop rock throwing from Billygoat Hill, according to social media.

 

The success of his motion would send a message to the “relevant bodies”.

 

Cr Bonanni said councillors were “rambling on a lot here”.

 

She said at a recent meeting of the council with  Families Minister John Elferink he had “heard our concerns but was on the fence on a curfew.

 

“Why are we still gong on with this,” she asked. “We have all said we won’t support the motion. People who look after the children need to do this, they don’t support curfew.”

 

Young people were not the only issue on which the council appears out of step with the government which now mandates that tenderers for government contracts must have 30% to 40% indigenous staff.

 

As of March 31 the council had 20 full time Indigenous employees, which is about 12.5%.

 

Meanwhile the NT Government has released the following media statement a short while ago:

 

The Northern Territory Government has put parents of rock-throwing youths in Alice Springs on notice that their children will be put into care if the current situation continues: “Get your kids off the streets. Get them back to communities and back into school,” Mr Giles said.

 

“Otherwise, these children will be regarded as requiring protection and we will take immediate action. Parents should not doubt our resolve to do this.”

 

The Chief Minister has also directed the Department of Education Attendance Officers to start issuing infringements notices where any school age child is found on the streets during school hours.

 

“That’s a $298 fine. Parents are warned. If these officers find a child on the streets tomorrow that should be in school, a notice will be issued,” he said.

 

Minister for Children and Families John Elferink is in Alice Springs assessing the situation first hand.

 

“I have directed my department to take strong action and take children into care where the legal grounds are met. Normally the department would see this as a last resort and be willing to work with parents but these are not normal circumstances,” he said.

 

“Gangs of youth throwing rocks at Police Officers is not normal and is illegal. It’s an extreme circumstance and will bring a zero tolerance approach for this kind of behaviour.

 

“Our advice is that many of the children throwing rocks and committing anti-social acts are from communities.

 

“If parents don’t want to see their children in care then they need to get off the grog and head back to their home community,” he said.

 

The Government is looking at organising bus transport to assist families with their return.

 

Mr Giles said the Government was also reviewing its support for next year’s Lightning Carnival in Alice Springs.

 

“If the organisers want taxpayers support then they best think long and hard about how they conduct their event and how to reduce the impact it has created on the town in the subsequent days.” Mr Giles said.

 

 

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10 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Frank Marino
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Stoning as I remember in that documentary was a popular Christian festival for the whole family. What’s changed?

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  2. Fred the Philistine
    Posted April 17, 2015 at 7:29 am

    It’s not rocket science to fix this, pick the stones up.
    Have council workers, prison people, etc pick up so that there aren’t any visible for them.

    View Comment
  3. Mark
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I dispair! Maybe a few broken windows at the homes of our recalcitrant councillors may convince them otherwise?
    We know there will eventually be a curfew!
    The question to my beloved recalcitrants is how bad are you going to let it get before that occurs? Otherwise provide a clear course of action to turn this situation around … a police “task force” isn’t the answer either!
    Task Forces come and go. We need sustained action, not band-aids! More of the same methods will only produce more of the same outcomes!
    If you want change, then change your approach. So we get Task Force Neo. Brilliant! Neo is a prefix from the ancient Greek word for “young”. Seems suitable while resources are pulled from patrolling and responding to incidents at our suburban homes.
    @ Fred the Philistine: You are SO middle class, twentieth century! We live in enlightened, progressive times now! But you do now recognise your new status! haha.
    Cannot beat your analysis @ The Barkly Magpie. Love it! Yes, it’s a circus!

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  4. Geoff Dawson
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Well said Steve Brown, you hit the nail on the head.

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  5. The Barkly Magpie
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Hang on for a sec, let me try to get my head around this.
    Adam “I’m the Chief Minister because I say I am” says he is going to round up all the stray children and put them in care.
    Elf “I used to be the Deputy but now I’m not so sure” has agreed to do the rounding up of children with dogs.
    They don’t have anywhere to put them, nor do they have the staff to handle it but that doesn’t appear to be an issue.
    Adam says any kid roaming the streets today will cop a $298 fine and we should not doubt his resolve to do this.
    The question can be asked how many fines were handed out on Monday or Tuesday and why today is any different – and exactly how that process is going to work.
    There will be buses taking people home but like the idea of having council staff looking after the urchins, there doesn’t appear to be anything more concrete than a thought bubble.
    Perhaps Adam has been feasting too heavily on Electricity Bill’s famed Zingers.
    Elf also said any urchin rounded up by the hounds would be charged, even though the Supreme Court said this week that is not how it works.
    Police, for their part, say there was no crime wave as the result of the footy carnival but they are too busy to talk about it because the independent Electoral Commission thinks there may be a bit of an issue with how Adam’s mob does their research and it’s a bit smelly, so they have asked police to have a bit of a Bo Peep at it.
    That’s despite the new commissioner’s mate having to not be the new commissioner’s boss any more because something else may or may not have smelled quite right.
    The new commissioner told us on his first day in the chair for real that he believes in early intervention and diversion of young people, even though that very day his own staff were telling me they are slashing our funding to do just that next year almost in half.
    Police are very happy with how the TBLs are going, though, because probationary constables – you know, the ones who still have acne – are pulling $120K a year for standing outside bottle shops while the real police have the fun job of chasing children with dogs.
    I would love to know what the Opposition thinks about all of this but they don’t want to interrupt their rather splendid game of musical chairs – or is it hide and seek?
    Personally, I don’t blame Damien’s mob for spending the night talking about fracking and glow in the dark signs. Like the first poster, I’ve decided there’s nothing to see here.

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  6. Fred the Philistine
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 8:39 am

    It not surprising when you have 14 to 16 year olds having babies. They are only children themselves.
    I often wonder why children are roaming the streets and not at school, and children are in town late at night and not having tea at home or in bed resting to go to school the nex day, or with families.

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 7:59 am

    What about the underlying politics and intent, the attention seeking agendas of some, intent on self promotion.
    Raising any point of dissension in the community, deliberately looking for controversy looking for a chance to take a swipe, not at council, but against the NT Government!
    I do not believe that this is in council’s best interests, nor do my constituents who have made it abundantly clear on many occasions that council should concentrate its energies on doing what council does – roads, rates and rubbish.
    The local anti fracking debate is driven by the Greens who represent less than 5% of the community vote.
    Tendered to Council was a petition signed by about 0.578% of the population.
    As an elected councillor I make my decisions based on majority opinion not the shrieks of a fanatical minority who set themselves to oppose everything.
    There is an industry that employs and creates wealth there is an existing regulatory regime to cover it and, yes, at the same time there is risk, particularly with coal seam fracking. However that is not happening here as of yet and there is no proposal for it that I am aware of, when one comes along I will oppose it.
    I am referencing the 400 as opposed to four papers argued by the anti fracking lobby.
    I’ll remind you all that science is about proven fact! If something is proven factual then even one paper one proven study is infinitely superior to four hundred papers filled with anti fracking propaganda that has no interest in a factual outcome!
    Further to all of this, unless someone is about to drill within the town area or on top of our water supply, the whole discussion is on a subject that is outside council’s jurisdiction.
    There is NO threat to our water supply!
    The anti fracking lobby’s real agenda was for council to be seen by the wider community, falling compliantly behind a national Green agenda of opposing fossil fuels, no matter what! I believe that it is very much against the interests of both council and the wishes of the majority, for council to be used in this fashion; our role in this debate is to make known our concerns while standing aside allowing government to get on with their job.
    As for the Curfew, you might well ask why it was raised again, particularly in light of council’s discussion with both community and Government over this very issue. Discussions are ongoing and I believe have already been very useful in focusing Government attention on the immediate issue, as you will see over the next few days as Government turns up the heat on anti social behavior.
    There is also council’s input and assistance to the community led group which grew out of the social media comment on this issue. Early days but the signs are good. Raising the curfew issue at this time was jumping the gun, not acknowledging the necessary consultative steps as we set about developing a sustained outcome.
    If the police can round up and take home 150 kids over the weekend, why then would we need a curfew? Clearly the powers already exist! Don’t they? So why inconvenience the 95% of good kids in this town for absolutely no reason?
    Should council to fund youth services? When someone turns up with a list of at least 70% of ratepayers who are willing to keep paying their normal Ttax contributions to Government, plus face a very large increase in rates, I’ll support it!
    Presently I’m of the view, in fact I’m very confident, that ratepayers will be pretty happy with a “No” on this issue.
    Electronic Signs: Once again this issue is outside council jurisdiction, we are forced by law to comply with standards set by others.
    Finally Councillors Kudrenko’s “Probing Questions” on investment was her catching up on a very lengthy discussion of that subject by other councillors at a forum meeting which Councillor Kudrenko was unable to attend.
    The “no change” was the decision reached in that forum.
    As always the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of council.

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  8. Hal Duell
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 5:00 am

    How many of those caught in the current sweep are visitors from outlying communities, and how many are local urban feral?

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  9. Charlotte
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Ironic that the government is taking a so called tough stand on anti-social behaviour when that is all we have been exposed to from both sides of politics. Lots of talk to deflect, lack of any real action required.

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  10. Not a local but wish I was
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Well, it’s all sorted then. Nothing to see here.

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