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Malarndirri McCarthy defends NT government curfew measures in Mparntwe

Dechlan Brennan -

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy says she disagrees with comments from the leading Indigenous justice agency in the Northern Territory that the current youth curfew in Mparntwe/Alice Springs criminalises children, arguing she agrees with the implementation of the interim measures by the Territory government. 

Appearing on ABC Radio Alice Springs, the Indigenous Senator from the NT was asked to respond to comments from the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), who said the extension of the curfew measures in Mparntwe/Alice Springs was “not a productive way forward".

When this occurred, Senator McCarthy said, “it was obviously the right thing to do.”

“What we have to be careful of, and I am mindful that NAAJA and others in the legal fraternity have concerns about it, we have to ensure that this isn't the long-term solution, but clearly we needed something in the short term," she said.

On Wednesday, NAAJA said in a statement: “The imposition of the curfew risks the needless harm of contact with police and does nothing to address the underlying issues it is attempting to resolve".

The NT police confirmed as of Monday no children have been addressed for curfew breaches and Senator McCarthy was asked if the comments from NAAJA were “a trope,” and if it was true that the “further you are away from Alice Springs, the less informed the comment is".

“I certainly didn't agree with that comment,” Senator McCarthy said of NAAJA’s statement.

“Because I felt what the Chief Minister was doing, what the Police Commissioner is doing, and certainly the agencies, both at a Federal and Territory level, recognise the absolute seriousness of this.

“People in Alice Springs are hurting, were hurting on every level, and this was an important moment to say, ‘enough’. And now we have to make sure that as we go forward, it still is something that does not occur going forward.”

Opposition to the curfew has come from a number of legal and human rights groups, including Amnesty International Australia and NATSILS, who labelled it a "knee-jerk" response unlikely to help the long-term issue of youth crime in Central Australia.

The issue of violence in Mparntwe/Alice Springs was thrust back into the public spotlight at the end of last month during a series of violent confrontations in the wake of the death of 18-year-old eastern Arrernte man Kumanjayi Petrick in a car accident. 

It resulted in the NT government implementing a curfew for everyone under the age of 18, as well an enacting a highly visible police presence in the town, which has seen extra officers brought in from South Australia.

Asked if it should be introduced again if there was another “crisis” that required such measures, Senator McCarthy said: “This shows that it can be done sensibly".

“I do think the people of Alice Springs…should have confidence that Eva Lawler, as Chief Minister, knows what to do." she said.

"And certainly, from our perspective at the Commonwealth level, we're very pleased with the direction that she's taken.”

The Senator continued to defend the federal input in the region, noting the “ongoing support to ensure that safety continues in Central Australia".

“We had the recent Cabinet Meeting with the Prime Minister here and all the Ministers, and there is no doubt that there will be ongoing support to ensure that safety continues in Central Australia, but more broadly across the Northern Territory,” she said.

The opposition has cautiously approved the response to the curfew, with shadow Indigenous affairs spokesperson and Warlpiri/Celtic senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price urging the government to deploy the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to restore "safety” in the town. 

The curfew extension is scheduled to end on Tuesday at 6am.


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