Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 May 1995
Parliamentary Record 10
Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 17 May 1995 Over the last few weeks, people have been camping on a vacant lot adjacent to very good quality housing in Tennant Creek. The residents are totally incensed because this group of unofficial campers have no sanitary facilities. They are there largely because they are drinkers who have been excluded by their own groups as a result of their behaviour. The police and the Julalikari Council know about them. Everybody knows that they are there, but no action has been taken. I do not really know what effect we will see with a solitary officer telling such people to move on. One of the reasons why they have not been moved is because there is nowhere else for them to go. That is one of the big problems. If you are to move people on, there must be somewhere to move them on to and where they will not cause even more problems than they are causing already. I am not blaming the police or the night patrol, but I am saying that nothing is being done about the problem. I do not know that a single officer will be able to do much about such situations either, unless that officer is to be given extraordinary powers. I return now to the issue of antisocial behaviour. I cringe when I hear that term because it is all too easy to impose our own view of what constitutes antisocial behaviour. I have heard, for instance, as much foul language come from the mouths of perfectly sober people as from drunken ones. Are we suddenly to impose a standard of language on people in the public streets merely because it offends our own sensibilities? Our acceptance or otherwise of behaviour and of language changes over the years. When my grandmother was a young girl, she used to work in London and had to go through the fish market where the fishmongers had a reputation for using the most colourful language in the country - often in several languages. At the tender age of 19, my grandmother heard language that she certainly did not learn at home. She understood that that was the common parlance of those people and they meant no harm by it. The words were used merely as adjectives in the same way that she might use bad or dreadful. If people use somewhat colourful language which does no harm to anybody and, if it is not directed at another party, we have to tread very carefully in terms of our ethnocentric view of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. That is a minor issue, I believe, although obviously it is something that concerns many people. There are far more serious issues to contend with and these are the ones for which we really need the resources. I refer to matters such as violence against women and children, violence and threatening behaviour in the streets and damage to public property. One of the most worrying aspects, certainly for people in the tourism industry, is the reputation that the town gains when people are confronted by drunks begging or behaving in an aggressive manner. Interaction is needed between the law enforcers, the arbiters of social behaviour and the people who are causing what we see to be problems. There needs to be clear understanding on each side as to what the other finds offensive. I know that many Aboriginal people find some forms of behaviour of non-Aboriginal people offensive. They find it offensive if we use the name of a deceased person. They find it offensive if we look directly at them at certain times when we are speaking to them. They are often too polite to let us know about these feelings in the same way that we probably do not say to somebody who is offending us that we would rather they did not humbug us for money and so on. There needs to be a bit of give each way, with people being honest with each other, identifying what they find unacceptable but inviting the other side to state its point of view. If we do not do that, we place those people whom we are targeting in an invidious position in which they see clearly that they are the ones who are 3259
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