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Aboriginal legal services peak body warns punitive approach to youth will worsen situation

Giovanni Torre -

The national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services says state and territory governments are choosing to "turn away from Closing the Gap and blindly implement failed 'anti-violence' strategies that increase violence".

Responding to the announcement of a new youth curfew in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, "continued fearmongering", and "threats of a new intervention", NATSILS said on Thursday that governments around Australia have "proven themselves incapable of a basic history lesson".

NATSILS chair Karly Warner said the latest "emergency" in Mparntwe, or other places like Moree, was going to get worse if Premiers and Chief Ministers around the country kept repeating failed history.

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

"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.

"Using 'but, we have to do something' as an excuse for punitive measures against children is itself 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."

Ms Warner said NATSILS is calling on state and territory governments around Australia including the NT and New South Wales to "abandon their punitive policies and get back on track with Closing the Gap".

The youth curfew was declared after tensions surrounding the death of an 18-year-old in a car accident erupted Tuesday - on the day of his funeral in Mparntwe/Alice Springs - leading to dozens attacking a local tavern and an estimated 150 people in Hidden Valley community, outside the city, "going armed in public and engaging in violent conduct", police reported.

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