Posts Tagged ‘nt

19
Mar
11

The question of a youth curfew for Alice Springs

The national attention in Alice Springs in the last few weeks has renewed calls for a blanket youth curfew.

That young people out late at night is an issue is plain.  Just over a month ago my son was born and at 3 am whilst driving home I came across a group of about 15 young people (with some of them very young).  This was a school weeknight.  I see it regularly.  Stories of youth out late at night and up to no good are common for this time of the year but are heightened because of the media attention.  Many of the observations (not all) made in national print media about our youth are true.

Calls for a youth curfew in response to the issue have been made for some time.  I remember attending the 10th Alice Springs Town Council meeting where the issue was debated to a packed house.  It seemed to me to be the conservatively-aligned Aldermen vs the politically active youth NGO crowd.  In our current Council at least one Alderman has been vocal in his support of a curfew but no motion has been put.  The current sitting Country Liberal MLAs of Alice Springs have put a blanket youth curfew forward as their policy.  The recently formed ‘Action for Alice’ group has put is as one of their ‘demands’ to government.  Beyond saying ‘there will be a youth curfew so that young people will no longer be on the streets at night’, there are no further details provided.  No costings and no details for how it would work.  The impression is all  youth in the streets and in public at night under a youth curfew would not be there.

Although I do not deny the scale of the issue I am not in favour of a blanket youth curfew.

At its core, the proposal is aimed at eliminating the presence of youth in the streets late at night.  Many of these youth are there because it is safer then their homes.  Their homes (if they have one) are in nearly all cases caught in the trap of substance abuse (often alcohol), and all its permeating and negative effects.  Many of the young people have been abondened.  What purpose would a blanket curfew serve other than to condemn these young people to the privacy of their dysfunctional homes?  Proponents of a youth curfew would argue that these young people should not be out in the streets at night and that a curfew would put them in the contact of authorities, but isn’t this the role of an effective child welfare system?  Many commentators against a blanket youth curfew fail to advocate this specific point, and choose to put forward other points, partly because they are part of the same political system.  If the proponents of a blanket youth curfew get into government they will simply avoid the exact point (the work required for real change) and for the same reasons.

The presence of a young person left to roam the streets unsupervised is supposed to be a condition to prompt child welfare action.  If our policies were effective this scenario would lead to a personal and formal intervention.    The young person would receive the direct attention and follow-through of child welfare.  A blanket youth curfew is not a substitute for an inadequate child welfare system.  In fact, it would simply mask and skew the debate and provide a distraction to what should be the central issue.  It would lead to a political blame game and proponents of the curfew would resort to wedge based politics designed to isolate those against the curfew as being soft, weak, and not having the ‘best interests of the child’ principle at heart.  This political tactic is used time and time again.  It is motivated in-part by the game of politics and a self-belief that a youth curfew is the answer.

On a related issue, and after review after review of policies that affect young people, and a Commonwealth intervention where nearly $2b was spent in the name of protecting ‘young people’, a friend kindly referred me to this blog post which poses an interesting point to consider.

21
Nov
10

Statehood and a letter to the editor

The Centralian Advocate printed this letter to the editor:

If the Australian constitution is to acknowledge Aboriginal people as the first Australians then this will likely be a symbolic gesture.  Symbols and acknowledgements can be important; it can lift peoples’ hopes.  Going beyond symbolism will be very difficult because changing the Australian constitution requires broad bi-partisan support from across political parties.  This support exists now, and only to the point of acknowledging the ‘first Australians’, but there is still a long way to go.
Putting the Australian constitution aside, what is more important to us is Statehood because we have the opportunity to design a completely new constitution.  We start with a blank canvass.  A planned convention in late 2011 intends to involve delegates from across the Territory to do exactly this.
What a number of us on Town Council have said, and what we are calling for others to support, is for the new constitution to actively protect and empower regions.  We want a debate at the convention about how infrastructure funds should be spread across the regions, and how people at a regional level can have more of a say as to how they are spent.  The ‘royalties for regions’ program in Western Australia has proved significant for their regions, and we want a similar program built into the new constitution so that it can’t be changed by politicians.  This would benefit Alice Springs, but also those around us. 
One main reason (there are many) is that under our current governance structure the increasing population of Darwin, Palmerston and the new city of Weddell will see a substantive increase in political power.  Regional seats will be swallowed up by the growing capital centre.  To put this in perspective, recently a Minister of the Northern Territory said that 73,000 additional people are expected to live in Darwin and Palmerston by 2025.  Imagine what this will do for the political power of Alice Springs (and the regions)?
It is clear that the local Alice Springs community will be divided about whether to change the Australian constitution, but focusing on our once-only opportunity to design a new constitution as part of Statehood should not be an opportunity wasted.  I urge all to get involved, to be part of the debate and stand up for the rights of our town and our regions

13
Apr
10

Statehood and regionalisation

An issue I feel passionate about is Statehood and the possibility of designing a modern constitution for a new State.  Constitutional law was an interest during law school.  The potential we have during this important time in history is, in my view, often overlooked, and to our detriment.  With such a complex issue many Territorians are asking questions.  In one sense there is simply too much information – many questions cannot be answered because we aren’t in a point of time in our history to provide an answer.  What can follow is uncertainty masked as confusion.  Whilst this happens there is the chance for leadership and for those showing leadership to coalesce around some core principles that define us.  

Dave Richards from Alice Online kindly posted this piece about Statehood and regionalisation – a speech I recently delivered to the LGANT general meeting.  The Alice Springs News printed a modified version.  The NT News (online copy unavailable) printed a modified version over two pages in the most recent Saturday edition.

This direction builds on a previous motion passed by Council, posted here.  There are many constitutional models for devolving infrastructure decisions closer to the regions, to the bottom-up, and many constitutional models for the distribution of infrastructure resources equitably across the regions – our call is to enshrine these principles in the new constitution and discuss various models in the convention that will decide a new constitution.  More to come on this topic.

20
Sep
08

Re-instating permits in the NT

On Monday Alice Springs Town Council Committee unanimously passed the following motion:

That Council call on the Aust Gvt to reconsider re-instating the permit system on Aboriginal land on the proviso that it adopts a regional information and consultative mechanism to ascertain those communities that have a desire to remove permits.

The Centralian Advocate printed my letter on Friday:

As an urban Aboriginal person the most concerning aspect of the permit debate is the display of the race card.  A supporter of total reinstatement of permits said publicly ‘it is only non-Aboriginal people’ who favour removal.  Several Aboriginal people from communities have told me the direct opposite. 
One person told me it is not monitured so, on balance, it is unworkable.  Another said their community has significant potential in terms of eco-tourism ventures but that permits serve as a strong disincentive for tourists.  Expanding regional economies creates work opportunity.  Work opportunity is an essential pillar of effective welfare reform. 
Too often the alternative is substance misuse.  Some argue that it is substance misuse that undermines the survival of culture (a core argument in favour of retaining permits). 
We know there is opportunity to expand regional economies because of the tourist dollar, particularly the ‘spirited traveller’ and grey nomads.  We also know this because of the economic opportunities available to communities without permits (e.g. ntaria).  Town Council debated the issue because we felt it was important to give people choice rather than the single path of urban drift.
The removal of permits should not be imposed as an ideological measure across all Aboriginal communities.  Nor should total re-instatement. 
We need to move beyond the left-right ideological divide and develop new policy ideas. 
One idea is to establish a mechanism for CLC to enable Traditional Owners the right to prohibit access by individuals with a certain criminal history, or to require those dealing in art to register (with a subsequent right to issue injunctions).  Another idea is to remove permits in a community where the conditions favour removal and ensure that work (and enterprise) opportunities build wealth at the community level.  Different policy ideas need to be debated and the decision needs to come from the communities concerned. 
Playing the race card and adopting ideology ultimately does our people a disservice.
On October 15 The Australian reported the following comments of Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour:
“I know there were a number of communities in the Northern Territory that were wanting to have the permit system lifted, and wanted (Indigenous Affairs Minister) Jenny Macklin to provide a clear process in which those communities could nominate to have an open town,” Ms Scrymgour said.

“I’ve been told that communities like Papunya and Hermannsburg want their communities to be open towns. I think the federal Government needs to provide a mechanism.”




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