NT government prepares for crackdown on longgrassers


Jon Lamb, Darwin

Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin's election promise to take a harder stance on "anti-social behaviour" moved a step closer to being met with police minister Paul Henderson's announcement on August 22 that new legislation will be in place by the end of the year.

The legislation will explicitly target longgrass people, nearly all homeless Aborigines, living in the parks and reserves in and around Darwin and other NT towns. A key part of NT Labor's platform for the June election was to stamp out public drunkenness and imprison individuals who fail to attend compulsory programs for alcoholism.

In a further criminalisation of homelessness in the NT, the police will take over the function of the community patrols run by Mission Australia. These patrols, undertaken mainly to take drunk people from public places to sobering-up shelters, also provide some other assistance to longgrass people, such as food, first aid and referrals.

While concerns have been expressed about Mission Australia's patrols, handing this function over to the police is a major step backwards. With a chronic shortage of sobering-up shelters or other more appropriate facilities, more and more longrassers will be locked up under "protective custody" in police watch houses and possibly even prisons.

From Green Left Weekly, August 31, 2005.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.