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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. *

Entertaining yourself in Alice … part 1

June 5, 2010 1 comment

So what is there to do in Alice?

It’s a bit different to be a resident here than being a short term tourist. There is some cross over in activities but new residents need something to sustain them through many a long day & night spent in the desert. It may be mundane & suburban but reading books (we have a couple of great bookstores) & watching telly do help pass the time. (Next post: we’ll venture away from the house for our entertainment.)

We have an excellent public library, with a marvellous children’s section complete with fun activities & visits from children’s authors throughout the year.

Free to air television (Freeview) supplies us with a mix of digital & analogue channels.

Analogue

  • Seven Central (a mix of 7 and Ten network programs)(6pm News is from Brisbane.)
  • Imparja/Nine

Digital

  • ABC – 1, 2, 3 and HD
  • SBS – One, Two & HD

There’s just one or two little quirks with the digital channels. ABC HD is fed from Sydney so you won’t get NT news. You need to watch ABC 1 for that. (And may I just say, as one who does a fair amount of travelling across the states, ABC NT News has the better newsreaders!)

ABC channels all broadcast as per their stated times.

SBS digital don’t. You need to subtract half an hour from the stated times. This is because it gets it’s feed from the eastern states & the digital channel here is goes to air at Eastern Standard Time, which is 30 minutes ahead of our time zone. This can be useful at times for those late night shows, for example, The Killing starts at 10pm in most places … but here, here we watch it at the more reasonable starting time of 9:30pm.

If you forget to subtract the half hour, don’t worry, you can always switch back to the analogue channel.

It’s quirkier during those months when EST becomes ESST for daylight savings.

If the Freeview channels are not enough, then there’s always Pay TV – Austar.


Interesting conversations

June 5, 2010 2 comments

I’m still processing the odd conversation I heard at work during the past week.

It was an enlightening & interesting insight into one person’s past and brought out others’ highly positive & embracing views.

I’m left with a feeling of well, who would have thought huh?

You get used to colleagues revealing personal histories of alcohol addiction, multiple divorces & adultery. We all have hidden skeletons in our lives.

But it’s not often you hear a workmate confess to having done sex work.

I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just that I’m surprised that it’s this particular person. Like I said above, who would have thought huh?

I think it would have been highly entertaining & interesting for the conversation to have continued but alas, work intervened.

On a clear day you can see forever …

May 9, 2010 2 comments

On crisp, clear, sunny days you feel you can see forever & the beautiful MacDonnell Ranges stand out so sharply against the blue sky. It’s just magnificent to see.

But do you think I should mention the dust?

🙂

Okay, so it gets a trifle dusty every now and then. (Photograph taken during the BIG dust storm of 22 September 2008. This photograph was being freely circulated on the net in the days afterwards.)

That photo above was taken from the top of Anzac Hill. You can just make out the mountains & Heavitree Gap in the background.

That particular dust storm then travelled across the country picking up more dust until Sydney woke one morning to find themselves under a red sky.

But for Alice Springs it was followed by an almighty storm with much damage done to the town. I was in the hospital watching trees come down in the car park before venturing home (on my bike!).

Some great, short videos about on You Tube of that day:

1) PurpleRifle’s video is a good one in that you get to hear the guy talking about how to protect your house.

2) OutbackBros’ video shows the storm front.

3) fmlycar’s video shows just what it was like when that storm front hit the town!

NT News of 23 September 2008 has a brief story on the storm & there’s also a gallery with 50 photos of the dust, the storm & the damage.

Some great still shots over at Flickr. They’re protected by copyright so I can’t display them here, but do click on the links:

1) loyobaey took this on 22 Sept 2008. Standing on Anzac Hill looking down into the CBD.

2) MacDonnellliensis’ photo taken looking through the dust-laden air to the Gap,

3) Another shot by the same photographer, this time looking down on the town. (Note, these last two shots were taken on 1 November 2008, another dust storm apparently on that day.)

So how do you cope with the dust?

Embrace it, learn to love the dust & the dust storms. They’re bigger than us, they will win. Might as well enjoy them.

If you can seal your house and windows, do so. But if your house is like mine … then that’s not really an option. I can close the doors & windows but the house is still pretty open to elements as fine as red dust. Some years are worse than others.

You vacuum a lot. I own a Dyson. Highly recommended for clean up operations. Note: I do not clean up after each and every little dust storm that blows through. That’s too much work. I content myself with making sure the kitchen benches are clean, the toilet seats & cisterns are clear & my bed. Eventually I get around to doing the big vacuum & mop.

Soft tissues. Or handkerchiefs. For blowing your dust-laden nose. Ignore the colour of what comes out. (It’s better than living in a smoke filled environment which turns your snot grey or even black.)

Sudafed PE tablets or some other sinus decongestant as advised by your doctor or pharmacist. Because your sinuses will block.

Whatever antihistamine or allergy treatment gets you through the hayfever season. Because with the dust come the pollens & grass seeds.

And don’t bother with white linens or clothes during dust season.  🙂

But isn’t it dangerous living here?

No it’s not.

Rather than start with the headline grabbing “murder capital of Australia”, let’s start with the official statistics, issued quarterly by the NT Justice Department. Latest stats are from the December 2009 quarter.

If you like reading numbers in tables, then the figures for Alice Springs are on page 45 of Issue 30. To put those figures into a visual context, page 46.

Big thing to remember is that a lot of crime here (? most) is alcohol-fuelled black on black and often occurs within the town camps.

Next thing to remember is that a lot of the assaults against white locals or tourists happens very late at night or in the early hours of the morning as drunken revellers stagger their way home or back to their hotel/hostel. Not much different to life in other towns or cities in Australia.

I don’t know the stats for white on black crime but given how shaken up much of the town seemed by the recent court case & sentencing over the five men who killed an Aboriginal man, I’d say it’s not common. Certainly, I was one of those shocked by the death & the crime.

Of course, much is made in our local media about the “social problems” that exist in our town. No point in denying the existence of the problem, it’s there & can be quite unpleasant to see. But what is the impact upon me, a white woman, living & working in the town?

I feel safe walking, cycling & driving alone around town at most times of day and evenings. Personal safety is not something I need to dwell on, as long as I exercise common sense. Is that different to where you live?

I do get frustrated with the level of litter, the broken glass, the empty cans  & general rubbish one sees in the (usually dry) Todd river bed & along the streets of the CBD. Then there are the patches of vomit, used condoms & other bodily excretions left in and around the shrubs & garden beds of the Mall area & other shopping precincts.

Council cleans up a lot of the street rubbish, hoses down the footpaths & Mall, but only occasionally tackles the river bed. This is not to say the river bed is awash with cans & other litter, it’s not. But there are patches, a modern day version of a midden.

As Anne commented on a previous post, “People apply safety using a pretty simple economic model: cost of safety versus risk of damage.” I’d not thought of it that way before but it is so true.

My neighbourhood is quite safe, very few gates or security fences. (And yes, there’s even a town camp nearby.)

In other areas you do see a higher level of security. In my area the greatest threat seems to come from the drunken teenage antics of graduating year 12 students as they celebrate: to date I’ve only seen a couple of drunken brawls & a bit of yelling in the street. On odd occasions there have been domestic fights (verbal plus door slamming & car roaring off) and recently we had a few cars broken into (but not mine).

I have a friend who lives on the other side of town near a housing trust area. She has had occasions to call the police due public disturbances which have, in fairness, sounded quite frightening to deal with late at night. There are regular private security patrols in her area around the clock she says. In contrast, it’s rare to see a police car in my street.

What do I do to avoid the unsafe aspects of Alice?

Well, I don’t go out walking the streets late at night (midnight onwards)(okay, more like 10pm onwards). I’m not a drinker or nightclub person so I don’t get to see what happens when Bo’s closes for the night & turfs out the drinkers etc.

I do go out for dinner, but I either drive, arrange to go in a friend’s car or take a taxi. This is exactly what I do when I’m in Adelaide, Brisbane or most other large “small” towns.

I am careful about where I park my car in town. This is based on watching where the current break-ins are occurring. And I’m always careful not to leave valuables in sight. Makes sense. I did this in Brisbane when I lived there.

I try to avoid doing my shopping after the 2pm opening of the liquor stores. It is worth seeing just what happens from about 1pm onwards, if only to be appalled by the sheer amount of grog being trundled out of the bottle shops by both whites and blacks.

I never go to Coles after dark. Even if they do have adequate security guard numbers on duty. It just isn’t pleasant. Large groups of often drunk hang around the entrance & throughout the Coles Complex carparks. I go to Woolies. Or I wait until the next day.

I would never walk by the Todd too late at night, not even to access the casino area.

Daytime is fine. The Todd Mall is safe & pleasant (generally) during the daytime in my experience.

Just walk around any groups drinking/drunk in public (usually sitting on the grass around the church or the carparks). A lot of the noise & shouting amongst the throngs won’t be directed at you. You’ll see such groups having arguments in public, but it’s not all the time, it’s not always a daily occurrence. (If you work in the Mall, undoubtedly you see more. I don’t.)

I am wary of the groups of indigenous youth you see wandering around town. They appear to be bored, occasionally they’re under the influence of illegal substances and therefore pose a (slightly) greater risk to me as a woman, let alone a white woman.

Occasionally you’ll be yelled at in the street or the supermarket and called a “white cunt” or something similar. The person is drunk. Ignore them. Security will move them on. It hasn’t happened to me for many, many months. It’s not a regular thing. But then, perhaps that’s because I’m rarely in town shopping after 2pm.

Finally, my measure of the safety of a town is my inclination to move on. The social problems are not yet enough to make me feel that I “must leave” town yet. And when I do finally leave, it’ll be because it’s simply time to move back “home”, by the water.

Let’s have a parade!

May 3, 2010 2 comments

Today is the May Day public holiday here in the Territory (you have to have a long weekend) and for Alice Springs this morning that means it’s time for a grand parade!

I suspect the Rotary Club’s Bangtail Muster Parade is the longest running parade or event in Alice Springs.  It’s been held since 1959, each year with a different theme. This year’s theme is “Linking Communities”. My first viewing of this fun parade was the Water themed one in 2005.

You join the spectators standing along Gap Road, Todd Street or Todd Mall and watch the parade & floats march by. The police close the roads for the duration.

But why and what is a bang tail?

When you’re mustering cattle you need to keep tally each year. So all the mustered cattle have the hairy end part of their tails cut off. They grow back slowly so it’s a good way for those doing the muster to quickly see which cattle have previously been rounded up.

Health care in the Alice

May 2, 2010 2 comments

We have a reasonable number of medical centres in Alice Springs. If you’re of Aboriginal descent, then your choices are even wider with the services of the excellent Congress medical centre available to you.

It is difficult to obtain a same day appointment with your own doctor, but you should be able to get in to see the “on call” doctor if you phone at 8am or 8.30am (depending on the clinic) as most clinics keep aside a few “extra” slots.

Mall Medical Centre is no longer located in the Mall. They’re now on Hartley Street, at the corner with Stott Terrace.

There’s also Alice Springs Family Medical Centre, Bath Street Clinic and Central Clinic.

I use Central Clinic & for continuity of care, I try to stick with my own GP but I have broken in a back up GP for use when she is away.

Alternatively, we still have the After Hours GP service which is run from within the Outpatients Department of the hospital. This is an excellent service and I hope it does not close (as predicted due lack of funds). It does cost more, but you do get some money back from Medicare. When I last used this emergency clinic it cost me $95 but it was worth it to avoid spending hours waiting in the Emergency Department.

Of course there is always the ED. I’ve not had to use the ED itself, all my little asthma problems & other slight emergencies have been able to be handled through the After Hours clinic (staffed by both community doctors as well as hospital doctors). The ED has an excellent reputation & I would have no hesitation using their services. Think of any time spent waiting there as educational. You will see some interesting sights, “culturally” speaking, but then, most public hospital EDs can be “entertaining”.

There is no private hospital in Alice Springs. But the public hospital is excellent, coming complete with an intensive care unit & a high dependency unit. Many of the rooms on the Medical Ward are single bed rooms which basically means they’re private rooms, with their own en-suite. Shared rooms generally only have 2 beds. Not bad for a public hospital.

What the surgeons can’t handle, they’ll stabilize and send you off to Adelaide with the Flying Doctor (no cost to you). We have general surgeons who can take care of most emergencies. We have numerous visiting specialists who see patients at regular outpatients’ clinics. For example, I see the gastroenterology specialists and that usually means seeing the top surgeon within the field. A friend sees the visiting cardiac specialist, but also regularly flies down to Adelaide for more specialized testing & treatment.

There’s now an oncology centre in Darwin and all cancer patients are meant to be treated there. But word has it that cancer patients are still being flown to Adelaide for their treatment (which is where most locals prefer to go because they’ve probably got family support in that city).

Whilst the public system can be slow with their waiting lists, if your case is urgent, you will be seen & attended to.

Pregnant? Birth & Beyond Parent Resource Centre (Childbirth Education Association) has information on your options here. According to the web site, we have the Midwifery Group Practice now operating here. Home birthing is an option here.

As in all things related to your health, your care is generally overseen and/or co-ordinated by your GP (with hospital input where necessary).

Dental care – Alice Springs has a couple of dental clinics with visiting specialists. My partner has used one of the local clinics and had no problems with them. For my first few years here I opted to fly “home” to Brisbane to see my own dentist. That’s not an option for me now (my mother having moved to Adelaide and relocated our “home”) so I will most likely be using the Alice Springs Dental Surgery on Larapinta Drive in the future. Or maybe I’ll fly down to Adelaide & see my sister’s dentist.

Pharmacies. We have 3 pharmacies in town. They all seem to be owned by the same group of pharmacists but under different brands: Priceline, Alice Springs Pharmacy & United.

For customer service (politeness, speed) I prefer to use Priceline Pharmacy in Alice Springs Plaza (the little shopping centre off Todd St Mall where Target is). When I’m working, it’s quicker & easier for me to drop my scripts off at the Alice Springs Pharmacy in the Yeperenye shopping centre. Occasionally I’ll use the United Pharmacy which is in the Coles Complex.

I also make use of the online Australian pharmacies. I use Pharmacy Direct & Pharmacy Online. I use these for non-prescription items. Sometimes it’s just easier.

St John’s runs the ambulance service. If you’re arriving here from Queensland, do remember to join up. Currently it’s $85 for a family.

A lot of people in Alice do opt to take out private hospital & extras insurance even though we only have a public hospital. If you can afford it, then do so because it will give you greater treatment options. My partner has insurance but I do not. As soon as I have enough money saved I am seriously considering taking it out for myself.