Youth curfew brings fragile peace to Alice Springs as locals stare down criticism

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Sarah Blake
The Nightly
4 Min Read
A curfew is in place and scores more police officers deployed after 150 people rampaged through Alice Springs on Tuesday.
A curfew is in place and scores more police officers deployed after 150 people rampaged through Alice Springs on Tuesday. Credit: @helprodger/X

Authorities in Alice Springs have celebrated a relatively peaceful first night of a youth curfew as the town’s leaders stared down criticism from outsiders about the harsh measure.

Declaring the two-week ban on anyone under 18 from gathering in the city between 6pm and 6am was necessary, Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson said under-fire residents and businesses welcomed the “desperate” step.

The NT Government imposed the curfew after a horror night of violence on Tuesday that saw 150 people rampage through the central Australian town already reeling from a youth crime wave.

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“People have been pretty critical of it this morning from across Australia,” Mr Paterson told The Nightly. “But what I’ll say to you is our town’s been at breaking point for some time.”

“And so we need to try things that we haven’t tried before to see if there’ll be some changes. I don’t know if it will work, but I certainly welcome the decision to try things and I welcome the decisions made yesterday. However, I don’t think the decision should necessarily be celebrated. We will wait and see what plays out.”

NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said an additional 60 police officers were being deployed to the troubled town of about 30,000 people, including more than 30 police auxiliary liquor inspectors to help cover bottle shops.

Tuesday’s violence came after family and friends travelled from the Utopia region for the funeral of an 18-year-old who died early in March after hanging out of the window of a stolen car that rolled over in the Alice Springs CBD.

A spate of recent violence in Alice Springs has resulted in an enforced government curfew.
A spate of recent violence in Alice Springs has resulted in an enforced government curfew. Credit: @helprodger/X

Mr Murphy said “family feuds” had been building since the death and violent clashes started at the Todd Tavern on Tuesday before spreading to a local camp. Footage of the violence was shared widely on social media and condemned across Australia and internationally.

NT Senator Jacinta Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, a former deputy mayor of Alice Springs, said the Defence Force should step in to support local authorities.

“The Northern Territory government’s response is a short-term disruptor, but we need a long-term solution because this is the worst violence I’ve seen in my hometown,” she said in a statement.

“This band-aid solution is the result of consistent pressure from the coalition parties; Labor still has no real plan to solve this crisis.

“The Territory Government has to do whatever it takes to solve this crisis and I think that starts with admitting they’ve lost control and asking for help.

“The Prime Minister has tried to pretend there are no problems in Alice Springs, but he can’t ignore it any longer. He must go to Alice Springs for more than a few hours, and he must offer the federal government’s full support, whatever form that takes, whether it’s riot squads or the ADF - a plan must be put in place now.”

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPImage

Police said on Thursday they had arrested the “main offender involved in Tuesday afternoon’s incident at the Todd Tavern. The 17-year-old male is currently in police custody and is expected to face charges”.

In a press conference on Thursday, Commissioner Murphy said young people who needed to work in the CBD at Alice Springs would not be impacted.

“The fact that the curfew exists doesn’t mean we will be locking up kids,” he told reporters.

“The objective is to keep kids out of the criminal justice system relating to a curfew, if they do commit violent crime they will be arrested and taken to the court where they can answer to a judge and go through the justice system.”

Mr Paterson said he was reluctant to speak out about the violence as mayor, given Alice Springs was a key tourist destination, but that the situation was dire.

“This job doesn’t come with a playbook,” he said.

“We are a tourism destination and tourism numbers were decimated last year. So I’ve always been reluctant to call it (local crime) out due to unintended consequences of people coming to Alice Springs.

“Alice Springs is an amazing place. And it once was a tourism Mecca. And by the mayor calling things out, it’s obviously possibly going to have unintended consequences. People are fearful to come here or they cross it off their bucket list. And that’s my hesitation.

“Tourism season is between March and October. So this is happening right at the start of our tourism season. It’s absolutely heartbreaking for businesses (that) have had a rough couple of years. So I think police coming here and trying to calm the situation down, hopefully they will be very beneficial.”

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