It can no longer be tolerated was the resounding message at a meeting of Aboriginal services on April 29 in Darwin. The meeting was organised to address the worsening issue of long grass camps and the drinking behaviour that goes hand in hand with people camping around Darwin.
“We have community visitors coming to Darwin from all over the Territory” said the CEO of Larrakia Nation Robert Cooper. “They have been disrespectful of Larrakia people in terms of their behaviour, the rubbish they leave behind and the dramas they cause”.
Larrakia elders have expressed concern over the situation and want to find ways to address where people stay and how they behave when on Larrakia land.
“It’s been going on for so long and we are no longer going to tolerate it. They are on Larrakia country and there are protocols for being here” said Robert.
Bringing minds together to find a solution
The meeting called together organisations like Danila Dilba, FORWAARD, Mission Australia, Chief Ministers Office, Larrakia Nation, Yilli Rreung Housing, Save the Children, St Vincent de Paul, the police and City of Darwin to come up with a plan of how to manage the ongoing issue of homelessness and alcohol abuse from people who visit Darwin.
“The issue is that people who come to Darwin don’t have anywhere to stay so the reason they end up in the long grass drinking is because there is no alternative for them. What we want to establish is an alternative location where we can encourage people to come and stay and manage their behaviour and alcohol consumption” explained Robert.
Why take action now?
Nelson Tinoco, the Outreach Manager at Larrakia Nation explains why tackling the issue of long grassing has become urgent. “It’s been more visible lately because there are more people coming to Darwin but also the behaviour has been particularly bad of late”.
In addition, we’re seeing the result of previous ‘moving on’ strategies such as moving people out of the CDB. It doesn’t make the issue go away; it just moves it elsewhere.
There are over 100 camps throughout Darwin where people who visit Darwin will camp, meet up with family and friends, and frequently drink. “This is no longer something for Night Patrol to tackle, we are saying enough is enough and recognising the problem has grown to an extent it can no longer be ignored.” said Robert.
Three steps to finding a solution
While it is early days the plan currently has three parts. The first part is to establish a facility where we can reduce the visibility and the impact of long grassing in Darwin.
“We are not saying it has to be dry, but it isn’t going to be open slather where people can doss down and binge drink. We need somewhere people can come and stay in the short term while they are in Darwin. A place where behaviour and alcohol consumption can be managed” said Robert.
The second step is starting to address the issues that have driven people to drink in the first place. There are many who drink to cope with trauma or let off steam. These people need to connect with services in Darwin to help them with access what they need to address the challenges in their life.
The third step is about exiting the short term accommodation and setting themselves up in a more permanent arrangement. “That might mean returning to community or accessing the housing services in Darwin” said Robert.
Action must be swift
All parties agree a solution for long grassing needs to be urgent and will require many parties working together to make the solutions work.
If you have questions, or want to be involved contactRobert Cooper by ringing 08 8948 3733.