Curfew announced for under-18s in Australia’s Alice Springs after unrest

Curfew will remain in place for two weeks after some 150 people went on the rampage after a teenager’s funeral.

A view of Alice Springs
Alice Springs seen at sunset [File: Jaimi Joy/Reuters]

Alice Springs has announced an overnight curfew for all residents under the age of 18, after violent brawls in the remote central Australian town.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Eva Lawler said an emergency would apply to the city centre and 58 additional police officers would be deployed to deter crime and antisocial behaviour.

The curfew will be enforced from 6pm until 6am from Wednesday night for the next two weeks.

“The community have had enough and so have I,” Lawler told a news conference on Wednesday according to ABC, the national broadcaster. “We want Alice Springs to be a safe place.”

The latest unrest was reported on Tuesday following the funeral of an 18-year-old who died two weeks ago while travelling in a vehicle that had allegedly been stolen.

Videos and photos shared on social media showed chaotic scenes with dozens of people gathering outside a pub called the Todd Tavern, throwing bricks and trying to break down the door as customers took cover inside.

NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy said the crash had rekindled family feuds and that about 150 people were involved in the unrest. Five people were arrested and at least 50 weapons seized.

“The operation will be swift,” Murphy said. “We’ll identify who’s responsible and they’ll be delivered to the court where they can answer for their behaviours.”

Alice Springs, which lies nearly 1,500km (932 miles) south of Darwin, the NT capital, has a population of some 26,000 people. About a fifth of them are from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, some living in so-called camps on the edge of the town.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said she welcomed the announcement of the youth curfew.

“I hope this is a circuit breaker that will improve community safety,” she said in a statement.

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson also welcomed the curfew.

The violence had been getting “worse and worse for many years”, he told the AFP news agency. “Hopefully we can go back to some normality.”

Tuesday’s unrest also spurred renewed calls for “intervention” by the federal government.

A previous intervention introduced by the right-wing government of then-Prime Minister John Howard after a report about child sex abuse in some communities remained in force for 15 years.

Some Indigenous leaders said the policy, which also included a ban on sales of alcohol, had only exacerbated the town’s social problems.

Aboriginal people have been marginalised since Australia was colonised in 1788.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies