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14-day youth curfew declared in Mparntwe/Alice Springs

Dechlan Brennan -

The Northern Territory government has declared a 14-day curfew for children in Mparntwe/Alice Springs in an attempt to curb youth crime.

It comes as hundreds were involved in a series of violent confrontations in the city after familial tensions in the wake of the death of a teenager escalated.

On Wednesday afternoon NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler declared the curfew, which will not allow under-18s into the CBD between 6pm and 6am.

NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said the violent incidents on Wednesday night "absolutely warranted us stepping in".

Commissioner Murphy said a group was from the Utopia region, north-west of Mparntwe/Alice Springs and had come into town to commemorate the death of a family member.

The 18-year-old died after hanging out of a window of a stolen car that rolled over in the Mparntwe CBD. He was crushed and killed by the vehicle.

AAP reported up to 70 people attacked the local pub, the Todd Tavern on Tuesday, with an estimated $30,000 worth of damage.

Footage of the incident has been shared widely on social media, depicting several young people throwing themselves at the glass doors of the venue.

Later in the evening, police said they were called to a Hidden Valley town camp outside Mparntwe/Alice Springs, encountering 150 people, with some "going armed in public and engaging in violent conduct."

"We saw really violent behaviour yesterday associated with the death of an 18-year-old male on the 20 March. That's led to family feuds and that's what erupted in Alice Springs yesterday," Commissioner Murphy said.

NT police said they have arrested a five males (aged 16, 18, 19, 31 and 50) for weapons and other offences relating to the two incidents.

"The operation will be swift, and we'll identify who's responsible and they'll be delivered to the court where they can answer for their behaviours and delivery nor justice," Commissioner Murphy said.

"Of course, it's going to be difficult for us to manage a curfew, but I think the people in Alice expect government to step up and that's what we're doing."

58 additional officers will be called in to facilitate the curfew.

Commissioner Murphy said people who broke the curfew would not be charged.

"I want to make it clear that we are not criminalising youth activity with a curfew," he said.

"It gives me and our officers the ability to engage with them and identify why they are there and what methods we can put in place, not just for policing, but through education and Territory Families as well."

He said police were also working with Elders and cultural leaders.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, said: "I welcome the announcement by the NT Government of a temporary curfew in Alice Springs."

"I hope this is a circuit breaker that will improve community safety. I will continue to work with the NTG (Northern Territory government), the local community & leadership for a better, safer future for Central Australia."

NT Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro shared a letter with the media addressed to Ms Lawler which urged the NT government to recall parliament. She also said the government needed to lower the age of criminal responsibility and change bail laws, among other things.

"I write with an urgent request that you recall parliament immediately for an emergency sitting," she said.

"The present threat to safety must be addressed as a matter of priority; anything less is a dereliction of duty."

Opposition Indigenous affairs spokesperson and former Mparntwe/Alice Springs deputy mayor Jacinta Nampijinpa Price suggested the federal government needed to take over responsibility for security in the city.

"I would like to see our authorities, the Territory government, do whatever it takes, whether they need to bring in a riot squad," Senator Price told Sky News Australia.

"There needs to be calm, there needs to be peace … we can't see it get any worse than it already is."

The CLP senator said the NT government had failed young Indigenous children in the Territory.

"This is years of policy failures in terms of our most vulnerable kids who have been left in utter dysfunction, to end up on a direct path to incarceration or death," she said, as reported by the ABC.

Ms Lawler rejected claims the government had lost control of Mparntwe/Alice Springs.

"We haven't [lost control] and the police are doing a great job," she said. "We saw that they were able to disperse the crowd. They have had Aboriginal liaison officers talking to the family members."

She said the skills required by the federal police were "very different" to those utilised by police "on the ground."

National Indigenous Times has contacted the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency and the Central Land Council for comment.


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