Home Featured Alice Springs youth curfew: state of emergency called after violence in town centre | Northern Territory

Alice Springs youth curfew: state of emergency called after violence in town centre | Northern Territory

Alice Springs youth curfew: state of emergency called after violence in town centre | Northern Territory

The Northern Territory chief minister, Eva Lawler, has announced a two-week curfew for young people will begin on Wednesday night in Alice Springs after violence outside a town pub the previous day.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Lawler said the state of emergency had been declared and those aged under 18 would be subject to the curfew between 6pm and 6am.

More than 50 additional police and liquor inspectors will be deployed in the town after a series of violent clashes following the commemoration of the death of a teenager.

“We want people in Alice Springs to be able to walk down the street, feel safe, be able to go to the shopping centre, pick up their kids from school and not be concerned about their own safety,” Lawler said.

“If someone under 18 years old is in the CBD past 6pm and before 6am without a valid reason they will be taken home or to a safe place.”

Video shows crowd attacking Alice Springs pub – video

The curfew, which was welcomed by the federal government, comes after chaos descended on the town on Tuesday afternoon, when up to 70 people attacked a local pub, the Todd Tavern. The Northern Territory police commissioner, Michael Murphy, alleged some of the violence was related to the death of an 18-year-old man in a car accident this month.

The 18-year-old died on 8 March when an allegedly stolen car rolled over in the central business district.

Murphy said the government had listened to his advice, warning there would be an “increase in tempo and visibility” of officers to drive down crime.

“We saw … really violent behaviour yesterday associated with the death of an 18-year-old male,” he said. “That’s led to family feuds and that’s what erupted in Alice Springs yesterday.”

Footage of the episode has been shared widely on social media, and depicts several young people throwing themselves at the glass doors of the pub.

Cars in the area were also smashed and hit with rocks and bricks and a 16- and an 18-year-old were arrested.

Later on Tuesday evening the ceremony was continuing at Hidden Valley town camp outside Alice Springs, when more than 150 people were allegedly involved in a brawl.

The clash resulted in broken windows, smoke damage to a house and a car set on fire.

Three people, aged 19, 31 and 50, have been arrested, while more than 50 weapons were seized.

Murphy said he was fed up with the rising crime rates in Alice Springs.

“People have had a gutful and, frankly, so have I, around some of the behaviours we’re seeing in town, unacceptable behaviours, or lack of authority or lack of respect for authority,” he said.

The NT minister for police, Brent Potter, said the town had been subject to “unacceptable, abhorrent behaviour”. “This is not just a policing issue, we must collaborate with community leaders to keep Alice Springs safe,” he said.

The town’s mayor, Matt Paterson, took to social media to express his frustration with the violence. “Horrendous doesn’t cut it, but I have run out of words,” he said. “I don’t know if there is a big enough rooftop to scream from – that we need help.”

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Paterson has previously called for federal assistance or a military intervention in the desert town, as has Senator Jacinta Price.

The Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, welcomed the temporary curfew. “I hope this is a circuit breaker that will improve community safety,” she said.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, asked the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, during question time why the federal government hadn’t done more to stem the crisis.

Albanese said he had visited the NT and the town “more than the three previous Liberal prime ministers combined, in two years” and had boosted funding for remote housing by $4bn.

But the NT’s Australian of the Year, Blair McFarland, warned the curfew was a “kneejerk reaction”, adding that the announcement was equivalent to “closing the door after the horse was bolted”.

“It’s really clumsy – this is not going to help,” he said. “It’s just another thing that will make kids angry and disaffected because people will feel they’re being punished.”

McFarland said calls for the Australian defence force to be sent in were “craziness” that would do nothing to address rising crime rates.

He also pointed to concerns about vulnerable youth who may not have a safe residence during the curfew. According to the NT Shelter, the territory has 12 times the national average rate of homelessness: 16.5% of people under 18 are without a place of residence.

“Grinding poverty and absolute food insecurity is [an] underlying driver,” McFarland said. “This generation grew up when the army invaded. It didn’t work. We need to intervene based on a hierarchy of needs.”

The Central Land Council met in Alice Springs on Wednesday afternoon and confirmed it would support community leaders to help families resolve the underlying disputes.

“Cultural processes are best dealt with on country, under the guidance of the elders and senior community leaders,” said its deputy chair, Warren Williams.