Legal body criticises youth curfew in Alice Springs

Chair says punitive measures already proven ineffective by history

Legal body criticises youth curfew in Alice Springs

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) is pushing back against the introduction of a youth curfew in Alice Springs, as well as what it describes as “continued fear mongering” regarding the civil unrest that shook the Northern Territory town last week.

In an emailed statement, the national peak body said history has already proven that punitive measures like curfews are ineffective in addressing the issues they aim to solve.

Violence broke out in Alice Springs last Tuesday after mourners attending the funeral of an 18-year-old man attacked the town’s oldest pub. The situation escalated later that night amidst riots involving 150 people armed with axes, machetes and knives.

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NT chief minister Eva Lawler responded to the violence by declaring a two-week state of emergency that included a nighttime curfew for children under the age of 18.  

Lawler later commented that the curfew could be extended beyond its April 10 deadline and said many residents were “absolutely overjoyed” when it was first announced.

But NATSILS chair Karly Warner said the situation in Alice Springs is bound to “get worse if Premiers around the country keep repeating failed history.”

“Less than a year after the Voice referendum, various governments have now been spooked by fear campaigns,” Warner said in the statement released by NASTILS. “Their failure to progress Closing the Gap commitments results in further dislocation, trauma, and the anxiety we are seeing play out in some communities.”

“Governments have a clear choice, and it should be an easy one. They can opt for what they see as political fixes that make the problem worse, or they can go to the policies and solutions that are evidence-based and already well-established.”

Warner also criticised the choice to turn to “punitive measures against children” and called it “juvenile intellectual reasoning.”

“Policies that result in children being locked up and make problems worse are not solutions – they are dangerous and will result in further tragedy for communities and children,” she said.

Several other groups have raised concerns over the Alice Springs curfew. The NT police union is one such group, recently advising its members that the curfew could be unlawful.

 

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