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Not Army’s job: Thistlethwaite rules out ADF intervention for Alice Springs

Australian Army soldiers from 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, during an urban operations exercise at Stuart State School, Townsville. Photo: CPL Luke Bellman

Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite has officially ruled out deploying the Australian Defence Force to combat a wave of violent crime in Alice Springs.

Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite has officially ruled out deploying the Australian Defence Force to combat a wave of violent crime in Alice Springs.

Overnight curfews have recently been enforced for all residents under the age of 18 in Alice Springs, around 1,500 kilometres south of Darwin, after ongoing violent crime flared among the 26,000-person populace.

The Northern Territory state government has also announced the deployment of 58 additional police officers to deter crime and antisocial behaviour.

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Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, speaking on 27 March, requested the federal government to deploy Defence personnel to fix the situation in the town before violence escalated further.

“I stand today very, very distressed at the circumstances that have taken place in my hometown community of Alice Springs. We are in such a dire situation. We have hit absolute crisis point,” Senator Price said.

“Leaders from my community, our mayor, has called for the Northern Territory Labor government to be dissolved and for the federal government to step in. This is how tough it has become.

“We have hundreds of people rioting in our streets and acting out violently. This is following a spate of violence, crime, death, and bashings of 16-year-olds.

“It was only a couple of days ago that I stood here to condemn traditional cultural payback in my home community and the treatment of young Indigenous women. The violence has escalated to the worst we have ever seen, certainly the worst in my lifetime growing up in Alice Springs.

“The Territory government must admit they have failed the people of Alice Springs and the Northern Territory. They have to send in the riot squad, the ADF – whoever it takes – to bring calm to our streets, to ensure that this crime does not continue.

“I am telling you now as a Warlpiri woman, who has lived life connected to my culture, that cultural payback exists – all the deniers out there, whether it is those in the ABC, whether it’s those across the chamber who want to romanticise my culture, the culture that I live and that I’ve lived with all my life.

“This situation will get worse if it is not dealt with and dealt with immediately. How many more deaths have to occur? Does it matter? They’re just Indigenous kids, right?

“Prime Minister Albanese needs to go back to Alice Springs; he needs to deploy the ADF and he needs to have a presence in our community to make the people of Alice Springs feel some sense of safety once and for all. We have all experienced the violence. I have had to physically exert myself and put myself into a violent situation to stop a woman from being bashed. I’ve done this myself. I’ve been on the ground, I’ve been in the dirt, my home has been broken into. The member for Lingiari’s home has been broken into.

“We need help. Do your job, Labor.”

Speaking during a television interview on 27 March, Thistlewaite, Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Assistant Minister for the Republic, said it’s not the Australian Army’s place to quell civilian crime.

“It’s not the Army’s role. That’s the jurisdiction of the state and territory police forces,” he said.

“It’s a serious issue and that’s why the government’s putting in place measures to try and reduce that crime over a period of time.

“The measures concentrate on three areas, on housing, on training and education, and on employment. You saw (that) in our response to the Closing the Gap strategy, big investments in those areas, particularly in improving housing and training and education.

“It’s a serious crisis. And Marion Scrymgour (member for Lingiari, Australian Labor Party) is certainly working with the relevant ministers on the issue, but it’s the principal responsibility of the state and territory police forces.”

Robert Dougherty

Robert Dougherty

Robert is a senior journalist who has previously worked for Seven West Media in Western Australia, as well as Fairfax Media and Australian Community Media in New South Wales. He has produced national headlines, photography and videography of emergency services, business, community, defence and government news across Australia. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Curtin University, attended student exchange program with Fudan University and holds Tier 1 General Advice certification for Kaplan Professional. Reach out via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via LinkedIn.
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