So where is Alice Springs now?

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

In the weeks since I last posted there have been numerous news stories on Alice Springs, in print, on radio and on TV. We’ve had another public meeting, this one was open to everyone in Alice Spring and arranged by the Alice Springs Town Council.

Reports show it was well attended with around 200-300 people turning up to listen and to speak. Quite a few good ideas on how to progress with solutions for the town’s social problems were suggested. That’s great, really it is. But the question is, will the NT & Commonwealth Governments listen?

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is suggesting a new intervention to prevent violence & crime in the town. The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of the NT have both criticised Mr Abbott’s suggestion.

One thing I learned about Tony Abbott this week was that he has worked as a teacher in Indigenous communities. For me, that means he does have some understanding of the challenges faced by our first Australians. His call to consult with Indigenous leaders in the NT is a worthwhile one I think. Unfortunately I don’t think his call for a bipartisan approach to the “what do we do with Alice Springs?” problem will go anywhere. The NT government is not interested, nor is the serving Commonwealth government.

Crime levels have dropped in Alice Springs recently. Partly due to the rain (too wet to burgle or beat people up I guess) and partly due to the slight increase in police numbers. Crime stories from Alice Springs still make the news. Like last Tuesday’s assault on a British tourist. BUT … overall, the town remains quite safe for visitors. Majority of crime in Alice Springs is black on black. With a number of annoying break-ins amongst the general residential & business communities. Annoying, disheartening, occasionally unpleasant to watch or experience but otherwise safe.

Next week sees the NT Government holding its Cabinet meeting here in Alice Springs. That promises to be fiery, more so if there are any vocal demonstrations by the people of Alice Springs. Anyone remember those noisy demonstrations some years back when Clare Martin was still in power? I’m predicting something like that.


Crime in Alice Springs – part 4

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

There really shouldn’t be this many posts on crime in this blog should there? Hopefully this will be the last of them for a long while.

In the interests of fairness, some links to the latest media articles:

Alison Anderson, Member for Macdonnell, writes a response to Jennifer Mills’ article (Shock Tactics in Alice Springs) over at New Matilda.  I found it to be a good read.

– Alice Springs News reports in today’s paper upon the community meeting held Tuesday night. I have found it to be one of the more positive reports on the event.

– Alice Springs News also runs a report on how businesses are faring here in Alice Springs, both good and bad, ups and down. It’s very obvious to me, as a local, that many of those businesses enjoying very good times right now are due to the NT Intervention.

Shaun Nancarrow’s column (sorry, you’ll have to scroll right down to the bottom of the page, the Alice Springs News site is pretty basic)(locals can just read their free copy, Shaun’s column is on page 2) looks at the vacant Melanka’s (a former nightclub & backpackers hostel) building site by night. I’d like to quote the last line:

I never thought I would see the day where I would rather have Melanka’s back but it’s true. How long will the government let the land lie undeveloped before they start to penalise the company holding?

Local councillor, Jane Clark continues to write some good, thoughtful posts on the current situation, the Intervention & other issues affecting Alice Springs.

– Finally, have a read of Outback Deb’s say on the matter today. I think she encapsulates some of the complexities of the issues facing Alice Springs. As she says, it’s not black & white.

Will the recent spate of crime reporting on Alice Springs decrease after Saturday’s by-election?

Or has the town simply had enough?

For local residents, do keep in mind the NT Government Cabinet will be sitting in Alice Springs on 29, 30 & 31 March.  Might be worth attending, especially as it looks likely there will be (another) protest by locals on law & order.

Crime in Alice Springs – part 3

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

A fight breaks out amongst a small group of people on a street. A woman pulls a knife and takes a few swipes at the man she’s arguing with. At this stage at least one of the many witnesses dials 000. The call is routed to Darwin and it takes nearly 15 minutes for the emergency call to be switched to Alice Springs. By this time the fight has begun moving down the street, across the road and finally into one of the busier shopping centres, Yeperenye.

Eventually the arguing men move off and the woman with the knife makes her way back to her office.

Police do not attend the scene.

(The difficulties getting through to local police in Alice Springs in an emergency are well known to locals.)

Late at night in Alice Springs? Sadly, no. It was around 9.15 this morning.

It began on Gregory Terrace, near Alison Anderson MP’s office (right in the CBD). There were numerous witnesses to this incident, including two candidates for the Alice Springs Town Council by-election, Eli Melky and Steve Brown.

I did not witness the incident but arrived not long afterwards. Later I heard a number of people discussing the incident, it sounded quite a ferocious fight. I’m pretty hardened to what I see in the town but wielding a knife in the early morning on a main street sounds kind of frightening. No wonder candidates for this Saturday’s by-election are mentioning lawlessness as a major issue in their campaigns. No wonder groups such as “Action for Alice” are gathering a bit of a following.

Alice Springs has been in the news again. An editorial in The Australian yesterday mentions the dangers young, Indigenous women & girls face.

The TV ads made by Action for Alice are being queried by the NT Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

A community meeting was held in town last night. Whilst organisers were stipulating people had to join Action for Alice in order to be allowed in it does sound like it was a productive meeting, if a little heated at times.  Reports from the meeting reveal there are some very angry, frustrated people in this town. But also some good suggestions that are worth considering:

– floodlighting the Todd River at night

– providing community buses for people to travel in to Alice Springs to do their shopping and then return home to their communities

– the youth campaign Tell ‘em That’s Enough campaign (have a look at this site, what a terrific idea!)

It was also good to hear that an older Indigenous man spoke at that meeting. His name is Lindsay and he was accorded great respect as he spoke and suggested a couple of those ideas.

The NT Opposition spokeswoman on child protection Robyn Lambley told the NT Parliament that children are soliciting for sex. I have personally heard young Indigenous girls suggesting sex-for-sale but given there were lots of giggles and followed by running off I assume they were just having a laugh, being provocative. Still, it’s sad.

Then we have our mayor, Damien Ryan saying law and order is the responsibility of the NT Government and he wants candidates to understand the Local Government Act.  Is the mayor suggesting Alice Springs Town Council cannot do ANYTHING about law & order in our town? Don’t some of our by-laws deal with law & order issues?

The NT News also ran a story on Alice Springs today. Whilst I don’t agree with them that violence has “gripped” the town, I do believe we, the residents of Alice Springs have become quite used to seeing incidences of such violence & general lawlessness.

I don’t know that the answer is. But I do believe we need to increase numbers of police in the town.  We all deserve to feel safe living in Alice Springs.

Politicians need to increase funding to those programs that are working successfully. We need more, a lot more beds in the sobering up & detox shelters. (Note to NT & Federal Governments: talk to groups such as DASA, they will let you know how much more money and beds they need.) We need to help the Indigenous children who are abused, who are suffering from addiction, who are wandering our streets late at night, who are committing crimes.

Maybe we do need regular community meetings to give all residents & community organisations a forum in which to speak up and/or suggest ideas?

So much of what happens in Alice Springs is highly politicised by various groups. I wonder if the hard headedness of some groups (this includes serving politicians) prevents a spirit of successful co-operation in easing the problems faced by this town?

For tourists & visitors to Alice Springs (and I would encourage Indigenous Australians from other states to also come see), I fervently believe Alice Springs is a safe place to visit! Staying at any of the major hotels, caravan parks or B&Bs you will be able to enjoy a very pleasant walk into town. Admire the leafy eucalypt trees and wildflowers down by the Todd River as you meander along the well-built shared pathways. Notice the many & varied birds – eagles, kites, galahs, mistletoes, the list is almost endless. Gaze at the majestic MacDonnell Ranges and take in the achingly beautiful desert landscape from atop Anzac Hill.

Visit Mbantua Gallery & Cultural Museum and learn a little about Indigenous culture & recent history. Listen to Indigenous languages being spoken on the street. And when you return home, think about all that you’ve seen in Alice Springs, both good and bad.

I’ll finish up with a link to cartoonist First Dog on the Moon’s cartoon in Crikey on that racism survey. 🙂

*Edited to correct spelling of Lindsay’s name. *

Crime in Alice Springs. Again.

February 20, 2011 4 comments

First up I am going to shout out to all prospective tourists & visitors to Alice Springs that, despite the number of bad news stories in the media of late, especially over the past few days, ALICE SPRINGS IS A SAFE TOWN TO VISIT! 🙂

Honestly? The current crime levels are really only impacting upon the locals, black & white alike.

Occasionally an unlucky tourist will be the target of some unpleasant assault, such as the German woman walking with a group of friends, was stabbed one night earlier this month.

It should be noted however that all the victims of this crime were released quickly from hospital so we can assume wounds were not serious. I do accept this group of tourists will have been traumatized by this unpleasant encounter.

But overall, crime in this town affects primarily the local businesses and residents.

Tourists should exercise the same safety precautions they would observe whilst in a large city.

Check out Travel Outback Australia, a local website, for some really good advice about visiting & living here in Alice Springs.  And remember,  ALICE SPRINGS IS A SAFE TOWN TO VISIT!

Right now crime is at a level where many of the locals are complaining in frustration. Some businesses are taking extraordinary security measures (I consider using razor wire on fences to be extraordinary).

Me? I’m just tired of seeing so much litter in town – the empty alcohol cans & broken bottles, the silver wine cask bladders (used for sniffing volatile substances), the vomit & other excreta in public areas. Council does a good job cleaning up each day but it seems a never ending task. Tired also of hearing of the increasing number of break-ins and burglaries. Too many friends & people I know have recently experienced the trauma of such crimes.

I am also tired of seeing those big blue & white signs around town, one of which you can see on the drive in to town from the airport.

We’re just a small town of around 30,000 people. Should we be experiencing such levels of crime and anti-social behaviour? Should our excellent but small Alice Springs Hospital’s ED be seeing an average of 120 patients per day? (To contrast, Austin Hospital is one of Melbourne’s larger hospitals and sees an average of 200 per day. Melbourne’s population is considerably greater than Alice Springs’.)  Doesn’t this tell you there is something wrong in this remote desert town?

Local alderman Jane Clark says in her thoughtful post Law and Order, Vigilantism, Alice Springs:

I do place a lot of blame on the carelessness of the implementation of the federal intervention. When Alice Springs and Katherine Town Councils first felt the impact of people leaving communities due to the intervention, we were unable to access funding required for emergency affordable housing or for adequate social services.  Basically the feds didn’t believe what we were saying.  Now the mess is obvious and we still wait for the assistance needed to cope with this disaster as it unfolds before us.

I think Jane Clark is right.

Perhaps the NT & Federal levels of government need to go back to the Recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report and implement them properly and in full? This is what led to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response aka “the intervention”.  Initially I supported the intervention, but now? Obviously it’s not working so let’s go back to the Little Children are Sacred Report and re-read those recommendations. That would be a start.

I think there needs to be honesty and acceptance from all concerned parties in Alice Springs & indeed the whole of the NT, white & black. There needs to be a real willingness for all parties to implement workable, fair strategies, programs & lifestyle modifications. I think there has also to be an acceptance by all levels of government that a one size fits all approach will not work.

NT & Federal governments need to listen to the local shire & town councils. Governments need to actively engage with each Indigenous community, each mob. They all need to be listened to, respected, asked “what will help your community?”, “how can we best help you?” Yes, that makes it more expensive but tough.

I am weary of seeing runs in the media such as we have seen over the past few days:

Alice Springs News – Cops all out on crime but aldermen want more

NT News – Alice crime tsunami building tension

The Australian – Destroyed in Alice

NT Police Media Releases – Indecent Assault – Alice Springs – Update 1

NT Police Media Releases – Suspicious Death – Alice Springs – Update 1

But remember, I am speaking as someone who lives here. The town is QUITE SAFE for tourists, so please, do come & visit. 🙂

Crime in Alice Springs – an update

February 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Time for an update on the level of crime in Alice Springs. Last May I wrote yes, there was some crime & anti-social behaviour but overall I felt quite safe living here in Alice Springs.

Nine months later can I still say that the headlines such as this one from 10 February  Crime in Alice Killing the Town are over the top? No, I can’t.

Law and Order Tops Agenda was the front page article of the Alice Springs News of 3 February. Many of the candidates for the Alice Springs Town Council by-election on 26 February are campaigning on law and order issues.

It used to be that many of the stabbings & serious assaults did not involve white people or tourists. Tourist Stabbed in Alice Springs from 12 February has prompted more than one conversation that I’ve heard where locals are commenting  with concern & bewilderment that a German female tourist was the target of this barely late night crime. NT Police released an update today, calling for witnesses.

The Deputy Mayor says our local alcohol restriction laws (which pertain only to Alice Springs and not the entire Territory) are a “quick fix”. He wants to see “wet canteens” at remote communities to stem the flow of people moving in to town to drink.

Today the NT Police issued a media release telling us of a 52 year old man who had his car stolen from his home after being confronted by two women, one of whom threatened him with a shovel. Police found the man’s car & have made an arrest. The person they arrested is aged 15.

On the night of 24 January there were a number of incidents and NT Police made 5 arrests.

We’re only a small town! There shouldn’t be this much crime! The fact that there is tells me there is something seriously wrong.

Attorney-General Delia Lawrie (based in Darwin) states the Government has already announced several measures aimed at reducing crime in Alice Springs. But they don’t seem to be having a great impact!

A person identifying himself as “Local copper” left a comment recently on a previous post of mine. I think it’s worthwhile repeating here. It’s interesting & frightening to note that the local police watch house is no longer available to use as a sobering up shelter.

Hey there. Not sure if this post is still going. From a crime perspective, this town is rampant. As you can tell by the name… i am indead, in the job. We are chronically under staffed and do the best we can. We all live here too and most have families with children. Unfortunatly the stats don’t lie. Politicians do.

Murder capital per capita. Within not wanting to seem crass or racist, one race does dominate this and hide behind the “it’s traditional” excuse. There is nothing traditional about getting so drunk that walking and thinking just can’t occur. But the only thought process that happens is find a weapon and smash the hell out of the person closest to you.

Property crime or volume crime as it is known is a high priority. It is just that without a witness and hard evidence not a lot can be done. The finger printing that you see on the ole chestnut “CSI” is rubbish. Love to have that tech avalable… It in most parts does not exist. We band together and do the Aussie “watch a mates back” we can have an effect.

Police have recently lost on of our best tools. the abilty to remove those so intoxicated that they can’t look after themslves. The sober up shelter is a revolving door… taking them home where other highly intoxicated and usually aggressive people are is a joke.. The last option, the watch house is no longer available for the drunks.

The worst place at the moment is except for sunday night the area around teh 24hr store and old Melankas site // RFDS lawns. Want to see large scale violence… take a chair and a metal cage.. You’ll need it.

Sorry for high jacking this blog and making it all about the poice and crime. I know that is not what it was stated for. Funny how things end up.

Still love this place….. stay safe.

Like many people living in Alice Springs I often work in the CBD and usually my work puts me in the “frontline”, dealing daily with both the good and the bad. It’s not pleasant having to dodge drunks or angry people scuffling & throwing punches, screaming abuse at each other.

Whilst it may not be directed at me personally, it does touch me & puts me on edge. I’m alert, watchful, careful where I walk & park.

My home & neighbourhood is meant to be my sanctuary. However, in recent months I’ve had to remain alert in my own home. Break-ins are common now in my neighbourhood, as are random acts of wilful destruction like setting fire to signs or wheelie bins, knocking over letterboxes, smashing bottles into gardens. A lot of it may be just nuisance crime, but that doesn’t stop it being scary.

Back on board!

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Life got busy & interesting and hence there hasn’t been any regular posting here for 8 months. Twitter also intervened, capturing my undivided attention at times as I watched various shufflings  in the Australian political landscape.

I still find Twitter a most useful way in which to keep track of the news here and overseas, especially at times of fast moving crises – floods, cyclones, fires & severe storms. An Australian summer has it all and it’s been a particularly tough one for so many people across my country.

At this stage I don’t think I can write coherently on what I’ve seen beyond stating how humbled and proud I feel of my fellow Australians & those overseas visitors who have shown so much kindness & help to those in need. I recommend you read Patty Beecham’s eloquent blog of her experience in the Brisbane Flood (scroll through, dip in and out, be touched by her posts on Murphy’s Creek as well as her words as she watched Cyclone Yasi devastate the far north of her state).

I worked much of the latter half of 2010. The usual mix of hard slog, laughs, good people, frustrations & regular pay. I am enjoying my usual summer break now.

I’ve yet to plan out my working plans for 2011 due to the sudden arising of a couple of intense health issues. Once they’re sorted I can scatter my resume far and wide and gather me a job.

Glitches & gremlins in the public health system mean I am still waiting to hear the results & treatment plan from my last endoscopy. I should have an appointment to see the visiting Gastroenterologist by the end of March.

I was diagnosed with iron-deficiency anaemia last September or so. A couple of months of taking heavy duty iron tablets and my iron levels were restored to normal. Terrific. Then, out of the blue, when I was getting ready to break out the champagne to celebrate having finally, come to the end of the menopause (yay!), some very heavy bleeding (HMB) laid me low for a few weeks. And those iron levels plummeted.

And thus I found myself on a drug cocktail of progesterone, tranexamic acid & painkillers. And iron.

An ultrasound (pelvic & trans-vag) a week before Christmas resulted in a referral to the visiting Gynaecologist. The first available appointment is at the end of this month. I did consider travelling south and going private but a check of a few gynae clinics showed waiting times for a first referral anywhere between 8 and 16 weeks. I might as well stay in town and go public. I am getting terrific support from my GP.  Hoping the diagnosis will be nought but a hormone imbalance. 🙂

With the wet weather we’ve been having here in Alice Springs over recent months the grasses have grown long & the desert is still green. This has encouraged mice to proliferate. Many of them into my house. A friend offered her cat but I said no need, between the snap-traps and the perentie in the roof-space I should be able to cull the numbers of rodents. 🙂

Highlight of the summer for me has to be the Desert Tree Frog. One appears on the kitchen window at night chasing bugs & avoiding the geckos, another frog ventures out on to the front door. Absolutely lovely. 🙂

Entertaining yourself in Alice … part 2

June 6, 2010 1 comment

Alice Springs is not your typical small town with not much happening. Those that disagree, try living in some of the small towns in the rural areas of any of the other states.

We have the following:

Then there’s our magnificent landscape. Camp if you like, but much can be done via day trips too.

Uluru, or the Rock (formerly known as Ayer’s Rock) is worthy of a visit. It’s not a day trip unless you do the Emu Run Tour (coach trip). It’s 450km or so down the road. Lovely drive, and you’ll get to see the spectacular Mount Connor well prior to reaching the federal National Park. And if you’re sightseeing at the Rock, you simply must drive the extra distance and inspect & explore Kata Tjuta (formerly The Olgas).