The town in crisis Australia ignored.

It's a phrase we haven't really heard since COVID times: curfew. 

But the situation in Alice Springs is so dire, they've had to enforce one. 

For at least another week, under-18s must remain inside their homes from 6pm until 6am. If they're caught roaming the streets, they'll be taken home or to a safe place. 

Just let that sink in for a minute. Something has gone so terribly wrong in this Northern Territory town that authorities have been forced to do something as drastic as declare an "emergency situation" and put parameters around people's movements. 

Why is this the first we're hearing of it?

Watch some of the violence unfolding. Post continues below. 

Video via World News Global/Twitter

Sure, those in Alice Springs are well aware. Many in surrounding towns in the Northern Territory are probably across it too. But suffice to say those of us in capital cities and other states are only getting across this story now that its reached breaking point. 

It has a lot to do with the media favouring news out of larger cities or East Coast towns — closer to where our biggest media shows and titles work from; places like Sydney and Melbourne. Unfortunately, as our regional media has shrunk and started to get taken over by larger syndications, these are the kinds of regional stories that fall through the cracks. 


It also has a lot to do with the fact this story centres around Indigenous Australians, and no matter how we try to rationalise it and explain it away, their stories are not always told in mainstream media. 

So what's happening in Alice, you ask?

Riots. Violence. Unfathomable destruction of public property.

It seems to have escalated after the death of an 18-year-old earlier this month, who was hanging out the passenger seat window of a stolen vehicle when it flipped in the CBD. 

Eight people fled the scene without stopping to check on him and two 18-year-olds have been charged over the incident. 

"That's led to family feuds and that's what erupted in Alice Springs yesterday, in a couple of locations," NT Police Commissioner Michael Murphy told the media last week.

It has led to about 150 people being involved in violent activity. A local tavern was vandalised with rocks and bricks, there have been brawls on the street, and in one horrific incident a group of about 10 women bashed and stripped a 16-year-old girl. 


60 additional police officers are being sent to the town as the curfew comes into place, with the hope it will act as a circuit breaker to help diffuse tensions. 

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson has gone as far as to ask for the military to be sent in because "this is dangerous, it's scary."

"If you have a look at what happened yesterday, that is not Australia. That is a national embarrassment," he said. 


The curfew has been described by some locals in the community as a "band-aid solution".

The legality of the curfew has this week even been called into question, with Northern Territory's police union advising its members the emergency declaration may be unlawful. These concerns have been raised with the Police Commissioner, with issues surrounding the extent of police powers when interacting with youth during curfew hours.

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory has since responded to the potential legal challenge to the curfew, saying anyone who wants to test its validity can "bring it on".

The truth is this town has a long-standing crime problem, and has been subject to a number of "crime waves" in recent years. Generally, as The Sydney Morning Herald reports, alcohol abuse is seen as the leading cause, alongside chronic social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities. 

Last year Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited following calls for more federal support and promised a $250 million funding package to address Indigenous disadvantage in the region. 

But they're yet to see little evidence of the money.

"There's been years and years of social policy on the run," said Paterson at a press conference on Wednesday.

"Dumb decision after dumb decision... The community is fed up."

On social media he added, "Horrendous doesn’t cut it, but I have run out of words... I don't know if there is a big enough rooftop to scream from — that we need help."


Australian YouTuber Spanian uploaded a sobering one-hour video just three weeks ago titled 'Welcome to Australia's most dangerous city.' 

In it, there are dozens of people with weapons openly brawling in Alice Springs CBD under the cover of darkness.

"This is chaos, one lad with a knife, one with a machete..." he says.

He points out service stations with huge concrete blocks out the front to stop them getting ram-raided, and speaks to multiple locals who tell him the town violence is only getting worse. 

And this is filmed weeks ago — long before the announcement of a curfew. 

Mayor Paterson is adamant that if the Northern Territory government can't keep them safe, they need to get out of the way. They need the big guns — federal muscle. 

His previous pleas have been ignored. But perhaps the situation has now become so bad, so untenable, so mainstream, the Albanese government will surely be forced to act.

Because this is a town in absolute crisis, and a curfew can only do so much. 

This post was originally published on March 28, 2024, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: 2GB/Twitter.

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