No quorum to debate Cr Melky’s youth curfew motion

p2462 ASTC 660

Above: Cr Melky and Mayor Ryan waiting for a quorum to be reached last night.

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Councillor Eli Melky shook his head in dismay when a quorum failed to be reached at last night’s Town Council meeting.

 

He had prepared a notice of motion responding to what he sees as “very serious lawlessness and gang-related crimes on our streets”.

 

Its primary focus was for council to appeal to the NT Government to introduce an Emergency Youth Curfew for young people 16 years of age and under, from 10pm to 6am.

 

However, only four of nine councillors were present: himself, Mayor Damien Ryan, Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni and Cr Brendan Heenan.

 

One council seat, formerly held by Chansey Paech, is vacant; Crs Jade Kudrenko and Steve Brown were away on personal leave, and Cr Dave Douglas, due to ill health.

 

A quorum would have been reached if Cr Jacinta Price had phoned in from Docker River, as was expected. The meeting was delayed for an hour in the hope that she would but when that didn’t eventuate, it was postponed until next week.

 

p2462 ASTC Anzac Hill flaggs 400Ironically, former Councillor Paech, now MLA for Namatjira, was in the public gallery as two items on the agenda were of particular interest to him. One was Cr Melky’s curfew motion; the other, was  flying the Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill, a notice of motion before council that has languished without decision since August 2014. An officer report, in response to a recent letter from Mr Paech, was asking council for direction on the matter.

 

On this issue, it is likely that council will opt for doing nothing, as it has not had any response from Lhere Artepe, the native title holder body, and a negative response from the local RSL. The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority does not have view on the matter although it would require a clearance certificate if any ground-disturbing works needed to be done. The Department of Veteran Affairs supports flying the flag although they see it as a way of commemorating “the service and sacrifice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women”.

 

The local RSL is currently uncertain as to its status even as an association, following entering voluntary administration and the liquidation of its club operations. However, back in 2015 a vote was taken on the flag issue  and was “resoundingly defeated”, according to a letter to council from current president Dave Batic. Despite repeated contacts from council, there had been no formal advice of the vote outcome until Mr Batic’s letter of 19 June this year.

 

Mr Batic had also taken the advice of the National War Memorial, that “it is not custom, nor tradition, for memorials and cenotaphs to fly other than the National Flag fought under at the time of conflict”.

 

This  advice ignores that fact that long before Anzac Hill became a war memorial site it was and remains a sacred site, known as Untyeyetwelye (or Untyeye-Artwiley), as Mr Paech commented to the Alice Springs News Online.

 

The spirt of the original notice of motion by Cr Kundrenko was in acknowledgement of this dual significance rather than as a commemoration of war service by Aboriginal people. She argued at the time that it would be a way of expressing council’s aim to “promote interaction between cultures and help maintain a cohesive community”.

 

While waiting to see if Cr Price would phone in, allowing the meeting to go ahead, the News also spoke to a frustrated Cr Melky.

 

Did he have a seconder for his motion?

 

p2462 ASTC Positive loitering 2No, he replied. He was hoping that a seconder would come forward as a result of discussion of the issues. And, as he pointed out, having a seconder at the start of a meeting is not necessarily foolproof. At the end of May, in his first attempt to win council support for paying off the Civic Centre loan, he arrived at the meeting with a seconder (Cr de Brenni) but following debate, Cr de Brenni withdrew. As we know, Cr Melky ultimately won on this issue.

 

However, his Youth Curfew motion attempts to address a far more complicated and controversial issue, even though all that council would actually be required to do is write a letter.

 

Accompanying it is a list of “strategic actions”, each of them requiring debate and unpicking themselves. One specifically goes against the logic of the curfew, as it proposes that the youth after hours bus service (run in partnership by council and Congress)  be extended past 11.30pm, which is itself already an hour and half later than his proposed curfew time of 10pm.

 

Another suggests that community service groups “distribute food and blankets for those who are homeless or hungry” – presumably to help youths weather a night on the streets.

 

Cr Melky has sought council support for a youth curfew before and been defeated, more than once in fact, but just a fortnight ago he said in council that his position on the issue had “evolved” and he had come to see that a curfew may do “more harm than good”.

 

The News asked him last night what had caused him to change his mind.

 

It turned on the night of June 30, his birthday, he said, when he and his family, including his four-year-old daughter, were leaving a restaurant in Todd Mall at around 8pm. A group of youths had gathered. He recalls his son commenting on their presence and his reply that it was fine, they were doing nothing wrong. Then a bottle of spirits was thrown at them, smashing on the ground at their feet. Most of the youths scattered but a couple stayed behind, “too cool” to run.

 

Cr Melky asked to them why they had thrown the bottle, pointing out that there was a baby (the little girl) in his family group: “Then all the profanities came through.”

 

The News pointed out that even an effectively enforced curfew from 10pm would not have prevented this incident.

 

Cr Melky recognised that, of course, which is why he wants to “activate” government and other groups in the community to tackle the issue on a number of fronts. He doesn’t want to lock youths up, he said, nor overly involve the police, but he did use the word “gang”.

 

What did he mean, as doesn’t this imply a level of organisation with intent?

 

When they’re together they feed themselves an energy, he said, that makes them do “crazy things, like throwing rocks at people when they’re driving past”. And “they definitely are organised … they have a very good communication network.”

 

Communication is not the same as being purposefully organised, but Cr Melky said he had observed youths doing things like setting off fireworks under the nose of the police,  or stealing from the Indervon service station, and then melting into the crowd of other youths milling around, changing shirts and so avoiding being identified. It looked purposeful and planned to him and requires action to be taken: “Put them on a bus, find out where they are from, and take them back.”

 

If they are committing offences though, it is a police matter, isn’t it?

 

Yes, he agreed.

 

Get ready for a long meeting next week, the last committee meeting before council goes into caretaker mode (from August 3) ahead of the election.

 

 

RELATED READING: 

 

Telling the stories of war: we could do so much better

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

6 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. Janet Brown
    Posted July 23, 2017 at 11:44 am

    We require (and have done so for many years) a youth hub that allows for kids to relax and interact that provides food safety and a bed.
    When are the powers to be, going to acknowledge this one ingredient always missing from the spending?
    Kids need a safe place to sleep. A safe place to relax and feel normal. The very basic needs base as preached in the community services field known as the maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
    Boot camps are not the answer. Detention centres are not the answer. And yet no one has asked the right question.
    How do we implement positive changes for these kids?
    We do that by providing a bed, shelter and food. The basic to human needs. A place that offers opportunities and support.
    Education and access to tutoring. Dealing with the behaviour issues is another thing altogether. When this basic need is addressed those with real behaviour issues will be visual and that requires some assistance from those with the skills.

    View Comment
  2. Posted July 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    @ Concerned tjilpi, Posted July 18 2017.
    Thank you Jerry for your considerate post regarding the issue of a curfew. I very much appreciate your point in opposition to a curfew.
    I am saddened to once again have to raise the issue of a curfew; however you can be assured that I have no desire to divide our community further.
    My deep sense of obligation to our town drives me to speak out in my role as Councillor regarding all issues including the good, the bad and the ugly. Certainly talking of curfews is in the ugly category.
    If I had a desire to be popular and become a career politician, then perhaps I would also choose to put my head in the sand and wait for the storm to blow over.
    As you may have come to learn about me, I am not that kind of Councillor.
    There can be no ignoring the fact that the town is in an unfortunate position where crime has escalated to a level not experienced in recent times.
    Despite the best efforts of the community and a range of groups and agencies the situation grows worse by the minute.
    This motion addresses the urgent need to deal with a rise in crime and the high risk to people’s safety from serious criminal activity including rock throwing.
    Although not exclusive to youth, in most cases it involves large groups of youth roaming our streets without care or fear of the law.
    The emergency curfew motion also includes supporting actions and strategies.
    Some of the strategies involve establishing a safe location for the youth to be dropped at, to increase youth bus services hours of operation to later than 11:30pm, currently being provided by a range of organisations including council, police to work with youth services to help curfew affected youth find safe transport to a safe location, if home is not.
    My final point is, the entire community is currently afraid to go out at night, some have called that a curfew.

    View Comment
  3. Kieran Finnane
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Readers, Thanks for your comments on this article. However, now that nominations for the upcoming council elections have been opened, under the Electoral Act all letters to the editor and comments relating to electoral matter (ie, intended or likely to affect voting at an election) must carry the name and address of the author.

    View Comment
  4. Paul Lewis
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Do the councillors get paid an allowance for the work that they do?
    I am assuming yes, which says they should also be showing up to the meetings. (If they were interested in their positions.)
    Of course this money comes out of the rates that we all pay.
    Given the failure to establish a quorum due to lack of councillors attendance at the meeting, does that mean the we, the rate payers, get a discount on our rates?

    View Comment
  5. True But
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 7:46 am

    It seems that people complain about these kids roaming the streets having no respect for people or property, perhaps no self-respect too.
    Arrernte people have been adversely impacted by a lack of respect for them or their culture that has been going on for 150 years.
    Unfortunately for Arrernte people those with the lack of respect have the guns and power.
    I believe if we want to turn this around and get the trouble of our streets in a sustainable and long lasting manner we have to bring back respect.
    We don’t need to start with the kids we need to start with the council and government respecting Arrernte people, with white fellas.
    Putting a flag on a hill is a simple way of showing some respect.
    Mind you traditional owners probably don’t want any flags on their sacred site.

    View Comment
  6. Concerned tjilpi
    Posted July 18, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    I do hope Councillor Melky reads this. His tenacity to push forward and provide potential evidence that it was best to pay off the council debts was in itself enough to suggest he has the potential to stand for Mayor.
    However, when it comes to his push (over some time) for a curfew in our town let me say:Firstly experience a curfew, live through a curfew and most importantly don’t ever believe that such an imposition on the town will resolve what may be perceived as civil unrest.
    It would divide, it would cause bitterness and it would alienate young people who, having been so restricted, would rebel more against the authorities who would have to monitor or police such an unjust regime.
    Why not work with the families of the offenders, offer support to them and allow the youth and children who are not breaking the law to live and play in our streets without the fear of breaking a curfew. My curfew experience did not work.
    Jerry Fitzsimmons, Alice Springs.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*