Alabama 1960 or Northern Territory 2009?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What fills people with so much hate that a night out ends in them bashing someone to death?

A few weeks ago a group of Alice Springs blokes, aged between 19 & 24, the kind who might have been at your friend’s BBQ the week before, ended their night by terrorising people and bashing a guy to death. It was not a personal attack, they targeted people on the basis of the colour of their skin. This isn’t Alabama circa 1960, it’s Alice Springs 2009. It was a hate crime.

The blokes all come from middle to upper class families, long-term Alice Springs families. You will be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t know their families or know someone who does. They all have trades and have chosen, post high school, to remain in Alice Springs.

The victim also came from a prominent family, with strong community ties. He was a ranger at Trephina Gorge, one of our national parks.

The media is incredibly quiet on the subject. The Age didn’t pick up the story, nor did the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian ran one story. The ABC News two. The local paper, The Centralian Advocate, ran (to my knowledge) three stories, but has been silent on the full charges. The Alice Springs News has a fair article, focusing on the victim and his family. Maybe the silence comes from not wanting to incite more violence? The families of the guys are worried about payback.

The media silence makes me sad and angry. We should be outraged that in 2009 five white boys would be so hateful towards Aboriginal people that they would go on this kind of rampage. Had this happened in America our papers would have covered it. I think we, as Australians, don’t want to face the reality that this could happen in our lucky country.

Alice Springs doesn’t want it publicised that this happens in our town. The last two murders that happened in Alice Springs (well, the last two that made it into the paper) took place within 500 metres of our house, close to tourist areas. This murder was witnessed by 60 members of the Alice Springs running club and tourists who were on top of ANZAC Hill watching the sunrise (What were these boys thinking?).

This town has a dark, underbelly of hate, glossed over by the tourism industry. It wasn’t long ago that Aboriginal people were prevented, by way of legislation and police enforcement, from entering the Alice Springs town area (Coughlan, 1991). This ban lasted from 1928 to 1965. Racist language and ideas exist in this town to this day. The Todd Tavern still has a front bar (for the whites) and a back bar (for the blacks). The difference between now and the 60s is that blacks are allowed in the front bar.

Racism does run both ways, white boys walking home alone at night have been bashed by groups of black boys. Word of mouth (we have family who are friends and family of the blokes) is that this had happened to two of the boys from this group.

The victim’s family have called for further cultural education and awareness. This is only the beginning. I think it is important that the history of white/black relations is taught in schools to foster more of an understanding of where we and others have come from. There needs to be public outrage at this crime.

I feel for the victim’s family, who only recently lost another family member through a bashing. To simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. To loose two people in such a short space of time would be unbearable.

I feel for the families of these guys. Having to come to grips with how their young lad could commit such a crime. Visiting their son in maximum security (all are in maximum for their own safety). Worrying about where they went wrong. It makes me wonder about having kids. I guess you install in them the values you want them to have and at the end of the day they are their own person (see this insightful blog post on parenting from an irritating truth). But you never expect that they’ll do something like this.

1 comment :

  1. I hadn't heard about this at all. It is a horrible story and that there has been so little media coverage..... shameful.


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