Damien Ryan’s youth curfew dilemma

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Will Mayor Damien Ryan (at left), now that he is also CLP candidate, reverse his long-standing opposition in council to a youth curfew in Alice Springs?

 

This week Opposition Leader Gary Higgins called for such a curfew, a sure sign that this is now a major plank in CLP platform for the 2020 NT elections, due no later than August.

 

Independent Member for Araluen, Robyn Lambley (at right) against whom the Mayor is likely to be standing, is latching on to the issue: “Over the past 10 years, under the leadership of Mayor Ryan, the council has moved four youth curfew motions. Mayor Ryan has never supported a youth curfew.

 

“A Youth Curfew could be a game-changer for our town and I will not stop until I succeed in at least trialing a curfew in Alice Springs. This requires the support of the community,” said Mrs Lambley in a media release.

 

She had moved in Parliament for a curfew on Wednesday, received the support of the two-member Opposition, but was unsuccessful.

 

“Unsurprisingly the Gunner Government did not support my motion for a curfew, stating that their current strategies for managing children on the streets of Alice Springs at night were working well,” Lambley says in the release.

 

But embarrassing the Mayor clearly is a win in the political brawl in which Mayor Ryan has now involved himself, for up to the next nine months.

 

There are dozens of references to the council’s dealing with the issue over the years (google it in our pages).

 

In November 2011 the Mayor got it embarrassingly wrong.

 

He seemed unaware that a youth curfew is official Town Council policy, as we reported: “It’s called a ‘Night Time Youth Strategy’ and one of its measures is to have unsupervised children 15 years and under ‘taken into protective care and custody if found on the streets of Alice Springs at night’ between 10pm and 5am.”

 

It had been on council’s books since November 27, 2006.

 

We reported that Mayor Ryan “tweeted on September 2, well before the matter came before the council again later that month: ‘I do not support a Youth Curfew, this proposal is not a #alicecouncil position.'”

 

Ms Lambley says this week “is the first time the concept of a youth curfew has been fully debated in the NT Parliament.

 

“I was pleased to see that some Members were at least open to the idea.

 

“Youth curfews operate effectively throughout the world. They are used as a child protection and crime prevention strategy,” she says.

 

“They are a caring means of keeping the children and the community safe.

 

“To implement a Youth Curfew does not require changing legislation in the NT nor would it cost a huge amount of additional funding.

 

“A youth curfew is about children and their families learning that kids cannot be on the streets at night unaccompanied by an adult. It is not rocket science and it is not as controversial as people imagine.”

 

We are offering Mayor Ryan the right of reply.

 

 

 

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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. Local 1
    Posted December 4, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    @ Alex: I respect your view and experience as a historian. You make the claim of rose coloured glasses but when I mentioned to people who have been here longer than my 25 years, that it is not any worse, they literally laughed as the spluttered out the words “bullshit”.
    My wife has been a teacher here with over 30 years experience, mainly teaching grade 1, 2 and 3, and these are what could be described as kids sufferer trauma.
    I am not doubting the quotes you have compiled, I actually gave up about half way through.
    Maybe you are right and it is not getting worse. The problem is, it is not getting better.
    People’s property is getting stolen every day, look at the increase in property offences since the BDR came in, look at the many posts about people who are reporting break ins, attempted break ins theft of property etc,
    This is real time current reporting, not dependent on what the editor of those publications wanted to publish (no slight on the ASN, or inference they are not reporting accurately) and you also have to consider that the stats are skewed because as many people say, it is just not worth the hassle, because nothing happens, because they are only kids.
    You rebuke my argument with the quip “so you say”, but my point about the town dying still holds true.
    In my younger days you could start your night at the Todd Tavern, wander across the road to the Stuart arms, then onto Scotties, on to Melankas, Memo and then the SGB and the Casino. The town was alive and even midweek looked like a weekend compared to similar sized towns.
    There are many factors at play too, but restaurants can only pay for so many smashed windows and thefts before they close down, and when the options for going out for a nice meal become limited, or the chance of your car getting smashed up are high, it simply becomes not worth the risk.
    All of this combined with the perception of it getting worse is not good for our town, many people I have talked to have been here a long time and they are also saying they are actively looking at getting out.
    Remember that even a perception can be a powerful tool, just ask the ICAC commissioner.
    Once again I have a lot of respect for your knowledge and love for the town, so don’t want to get into a fight with you, but again, the fact that it is not getting better may be more significant than the argument over “is it getting worse”?

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  2. Surprised!
    Posted December 1, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Someone once wrote: “I don’t know why we bother recording history because we never learn from it.”

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  3. Posted November 30, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    @ Local1 (Posted November 30, 2019 at 7:07 am): You conclude your comment with this claim: “It was happening in the boom times of the 90s, but the town was not as deserted as it is now, people still went out and enjoyed Alice Springs then, people are more scared now I believe.”
    So you say but it’s remarkable how rose-tinted some people’s memories become with the passage of time.
    Here’s a few statements published in March 1990 following a three month consultation with businesses in the then still new full mall: “Todd Mall vandalism is costing Alice Springs traders thousands of dollars each year.
    “Twenty five shops in the mall [in a week] reported having had windows broken.
    “The Alice Springs newsagency alone said it had 80 windows broken in the last year. Graffiti was also a problem. Mall traders steering committee chairman Anthony Neck said vandalism was rife in the mall.
    “Information I have received is that in the past 18 months almost every shop in the mall would have been vandalised, he said.
    “It would be a conservative estimate to say at least one window is smashed in the mall every night.
    “Mall trader Bruce Deans says he is fed up with his shops being vandalised and robbed. A garbage can was thrown through the front door [of his] shop on Monday night.
    “The following night thieves jemmied the back door of the Springs Plaza and broke into his menswear store causing damage worth $1300 and stealing 20 pairs of jeans worth $1200.
    [He] “fully supported a draft report prepared by the mall traders steering committee which among other things proposes day and night dog patrols in Todd Mall. He said mall traders were becoming frustrated over the situation.
    “I just don’t know how long this can go on, he said. Mr Deans said his shop had been burgled five times this year [that is, by mid March].
    “He said the problem is the mall itself. At night it’s spooky … nobody is around. It’s perfect for illegal activities.
    [The report] “deals with the problems and issues concerning the mall’s present and long term viability.
    “It slammed the security in the mall as disastrous. Prepared after three months of discussions the draft report paints a dark picture of the mall saying:
    • Business premises are continually taking an intolerable barrage of vandalism;
    • Tourists are harassed and intimidated during the day by drunks;
    • an increase in assault, violence, robbery and rape makes the mall an undesirable place to visit especially at night.
    “Mall traders have also called for the immediate upgrading of the lighting system in the mall. They want special security lights installed in vandal prone areas like the Old Alice Inn [Todd Tavern], the cinema and the Flynn Church.
    “Calling the area between Parsons Street and Wills Terrace a ‘ghetto’ the report calls for its opening to traffic to deter vandalism. It recommends installing a security surveillance system to be operated by an independent security company” (Centralian Advocate, 16 March 1990).
    That story (it wasn’t even front page) was reported nearly 30 years ago.
    Since then we’ve got improved lighting, roller doors and shutters, extensive CCTV, and the “ghetto” from Parsons Street to Wills Terrace re-opened to traffic.
    One would be forgiven for thinking all our problems have been solved.
    The front page of that edition featured a report on crime in the suburbs: “A police telephone poll of Alice Springs residents has revealed an alarming rate of crime in the Eastside area.
    “About one third of the 174 residents spoken to on the Eastside reported being burgled in the past three years. In one particular street every house on one side had been robbed.”
    A fortnight later another front page story reported: “A leading Alice Springs car dealer has called for law courts to “get tough” with vandals after his Toyota dealership was the target of a mass attack this week.
    “Peter Kittle Toyota’s used car division was targeted in a Sunday night rampage with more than half the fleet damaged.
    “This is the worst that we’ve ever suffered, Mr Kittle said.
    “The irate dealer shunned a Territory Government proposal which would make parents of juvenile offenders responsible for their children’s actions.
    “The scheme might work for the average Joe Citizen but not for these little pricks, he said. I don’t think their parents have the money.”
    The story goes on: “Windows on several cars were smashed, the office windows caved in, car bonnets damaged and other body panels on the fleet hit by rocks.
    “Mr Kittle said it would take a month before the damage was fully repaired. He said at least one car dealership in Alice Springs was vandalised every fortnight” (Advocate, 6 April 1990).
    In 1989 there were 11,000 cases of protective custody in Alice Springs for alcohol abuse; in 1990 it rose to 13,000 cases. The rate of murder occurred about once a month, with Alice Springs achieving the statistic of the most lethal town in the nation (the “murder capital of Australia” as we then became known).
    Meanwhile, Mayor Leslie Oldfield supported a youth curfew based on the recent initiative of Port Augusta mayor, Joy Baluch. This idea was strongly resisted by Assistant Police Commissioner, Andy McNeill, who two years later defeated Oldfield to become mayor of Alice Springs.

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  4. Local1
    Posted November 30, 2019 at 7:07 am

    How much was spent by the council on their junket to visit Pt Augusta to see the success and turnaround created by the curfew instigated by Mayor Joy Baluch?
    WA also had major problems with youth on the streets in the nightclub area of North Bridge, the success of their curfew has been debated, but the police certainly want to see it expanded.
    One of the issues was kids gravitating to neighbouring suburbs. If it was introduced here, that would not be an issue that could reduce its effectiveness.
    One of the interesting points of your link to the November 2011 meeting was when Deputy Mayor Liz Martin “reiterated her opposition to a curfew as penalizing the ‘future leaders of this community’.”
    Although I respect Liz, kids out on the street smashing things up and not going to school are not the sort of person who becomes a future leader.
    Future leaders can be developed by ensuring they have a safe place and are not too tired to attend school the next day.
    “Every Day Counts.”
    There is a lot of info on Google by searching Northbridge Curfew.
    Readers and long time residents saying it is nothing new does not mean it is not worth addressing. It was happening in the boom times of the 90s, but the town was not as deserted as it is now, people still went out and enjoyed Alice Springs then, people are more scared now I believe.

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  5. Surprised!
    Posted November 30, 2019 at 7:06 am

    The only improvement there’s been with youth issues has been in the statistics. That was only achieved by reclassification of the incidents.
    Let’s try the curfew for 12 months and see. What’s the issue in at least trying?
    Short of that, people may need to carry a big stick or a paintball gun with bright coloured marking dye.

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  6. Scotty
    Posted November 29, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Night Patrol. Youth Bus. What a waste of money.
    Police. They are too busy in this town. Do you expect them to enforce the curfew?
    I have a great idea. Remember when you were young and respected police.
    If you didn’t they would kick you up the arse and then take you home and tell your parents what you had been up too.
    Your dad would then belt you for getting into trouble.
    Nowadays, and it will get worse, kids think they can do what they want.
    Damaging property and assaulting innocent persons.
    The day will come when they pick on the wrong person.

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