Learning to drink without fighting, not camping at sacred sites, and respecting other people’s wives and sisters are just some of the rules set out by a group of Central Australian men working to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.
The Tangentyere Men’s Council has created ‘Going to Town Rules’, a set of social behaviour guidelines for bush visitors coming to town camps, predominantly Aboriginal residential enclaves dotted around Alice Springs.
Alice Springs is the major regional hub in Central Australia and services more than 22 remote communities, whose residents often come to visit the town, said Chris Forbes from Tangentyere’s Men’s Four Corners Council.
“It’s Alice Springs, it’s a social hub, you can get grog here; if you get turned away from the bottle-o you can just walk down the street and get black market [grog],” he said.
“We just ask that visitors show respect and behave when they come to town camps. We would do the same when we visit their homes.”
Visitors warned not to overstay welcome
Mr Forbes said the lure of alcohol, gambling, sex, or simply getting stuck in town without a lift back home were all factors that contributed to people from remote communities “overstaying their welcome” in Alice Springs.
“People come to town, they should only stay for a little while, maybe a week or two then head out bush… instead of hanging around town and causing trouble,” he said.
The new rules cover how visitors are expected to behave, how long they should stay, and dictating that respect should be shown to the Arrernte traditional owners and their country.
“If we went out bush and ran amok on their communities then there would be big uproar,” Mr Forbes said.
“When you come to Alice Springs be respectful of the traditional owners, their wishes, and the sacred sites.”
Rules aim to make town camps safer
Mr Forbes said town campers wanted safe and positive places to live and raise their families in.
“If one Indigenous person does the wrong thing it doesn’t matter if they’re remote or town campers, we all get painted with the same paint brush,” he said.
The men’s council said the rules were first negotiated with elders from the communities around Alice Springs in the 1990s.
“We need the community to come together with us to make it strong,” council member Baden Williams said.
Call for funding to help repatriate remote residents
Mr Forbes said “if the Government got on board and actually sat down with us and funded the Four Corners Program then maybe we could go out bush and talk to all the senior elders and work with them to get some of these mob back into their communities”.
Funding the program is supported by local Labor member for Namatjira, Chansey Paech.
“I’ll certainly be taking this to my Government, raising it with all my caucus colleagues and Cabinet ministers, because it’s programs like this that will actually reduce anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs,” he said.
“This is Aboriginal men being part of the solution, and this will see a reduction in anti-social behaviour in town.”
Tangentyere Council also operates the Return to Country user-pays program, which helps Aboriginal people to return to their home communities.