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Malarndirri McCarthy says Alice Springs curfew not a long-term solution

Dechlan Brennan -

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, says the curfew in Mparntwe/Alice Springs has brought calm to the streets and is the “circuit breaker” the embattled town needed. 

The NT government introduced a 14-day curfew last week for everyone 18 years-of-age and under, in an attempt to curb youth crime.

Tensions surrounding the death of an 18-year-old in a car accident erupted last week - the day of his funeral – leading to dozens attacking a local tavern and police reporting an estimated 150 people in Hidden Valley community, outside the city, "going armed in public and engaging in violent conduct".

Appearing on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Senator McCarthy said whilst she believed the curfew was a “circuit breaker,” it wasn’t a “long term solution.”

Noting she wasn’t part of the NT government’s implementation of the curfew - the legality of which has recently been called into question - Senator McCarthy said she would head to Mparntwe/Alice Springs and get a sense of “how people are feeling, what's going on, and also get a deeper understanding of where this will go in terms of the long term commitment of the NT government".

“We've committed, from a federal perspective, quite heavily in terms of funding in central Australia, and it's important to get a sense of where people are at,” the Yanyuwa Senator told host Greg Jennett.

Asked if it would make sense to extend the curfew to span the duration of the school holiday period, the Senator said it wasn’t for her to say, but that it was important to listen to the residents of the town. 

“Certainly, the Chief Minister has been on the media saying that's exactly what she's been doing,” Senator McCarthy said.

“And I'd like to do the same when I travel down there this weekend to get a sense from the residents of Alice Springs themselves, both those who live there and those who come in from the communities as to how they're feeling. 

“And I’m certainly more than happy to give you my response once I'm down there.”

The Senator was asked to give assurances the federal funding given to the region, estimated to be close to $300 million, was being used appropriately and going to organisations that can use it to make a difference. 

It comes as fellow Labor MP Marion Scrymgour expressed concern some of the federal money headed towards the NT was not being used correctly to help close the gap. 

“I'm confident, especially in the areas of health…that the commitment we provided towards Congress [Central Australian Aboriginal Congress], towards the establishment of better health centres throughout the region, for renal dialysis in those areas is flowing and is being put forward in the region,” Senator McCarthy said. 

She said the funding was already used in areas such as education, including in schools in Mparntwe/Alice Springs itself, as well as throughout the NT.

“What the NT government is dealing with here is about safety and the issue of keeping people safe, the issue of having police, or PALIS, as they call it, on the alcohol bottle shops to ensure that there is safety around the purchase of alcohol and the consumption of alcohol,” Senator McCarthy said.

Opinions have been divided on the necessity of the curfew, with some groups arguing it is a circuit breaker that is needed for the embattled town, whilst others - including Amnesty International Australia, NATSILS and NAAJA - have criticised the decision as "knee-jerk" and unlikely to help the issue of youth crime.

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