Keep politics out of Alice Springs, minister warns

Andrew Brown and Aaron Bunch |

Politics needs to be kept out of addressing long-running issues in Alice Springs, says Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney following the town’s first night of curfew.

A three-night stay-at-home order was issued for the Northern Territory community after a spate of violent weekend incidents including a brawl involving 80 people and a knife attack on a 42-year-old woman.

Residents and visitors are subject to the 10pm-6am restrictions, with people only able to enter the curfew zone for purposes such as work, attending an event or seeking safety or medical treatment

Ms Burney said long-term solutions were the only way to address the issues affecting Alice Springs.

“We need to keep the politics out of this. The issues in Alice Springs have been a long-time in the making,” she told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“The issues in Alice Springs will only be addressed over a long-term funding commitment, which we’ve made from the federal government.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney (file)
Linda Burney says the problems faced by Alice Springs have been a long time in the making. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The federal government had provided a four-year package of $250 million for Central Australia in early 2023 following unrest in Alice Springs.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced an extra $14 million for police and community support in April.

Ms Burney said there had been positive signs following the funding.

However the problems in Alice Springs needed to be viewed in context.

“(Put yourself) in the shoes of a young Aboriginal person living in a town camp in Alice Springs, let’s say they’re 15-years-old, and it is very, very difficult for them to see a future,” she said.

“The issues in Alice Springs have been a long time in the making and what people are calling the younger generation in Northern Territory is the intervention generation where all agency was taken away from all people.”

Meanwhile, NT coalition senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, who was previously an Alice Springs deputy mayor, said curfews there were only temporary measures and would not solve underlying issues.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price says the latest curfew won’t be the last. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“More needs to be done, basically, to improve town camps. The children that are vulnerable – they should be allowed to grow up in environments that aren’t harmful for them and that aren’t dysfunctional,” she told ABC TV.

“These kids come from town camps and they’re some of our most marginalised.

“We need to look at the problem starting with them before they head down the road toward incarceration and the sorts of behaviour we’re seeing carried out on our streets.”

Senator Price said the curfew would most likely go beyond the three days originally set.

“I have no doubt there’ll be another snap curfew because the underlying problems aren’t fixed through a curfew,” she said.

It comes as NAIDOC week celebrations kick off in the town of about 25,000, attracting about 5000 visitors from across the NT, Western Australia and South Australia.

The emergency declaration was made using new laws passed by the Territory parliament in May that let the police commissioner impose a three-day curfew that can be extended to seven days if the police minister approves.

A three-week curfew for anyone under 18 was imposed in March in the town’s centre from 6pm to 6am following a series of wild brawls.