Pupils in the remote community of Wadeye have been unable to attend school since Tuesday, after a riot between rival families broke out on the grounds, sending classrooms into lockdown.
- A 29-year-old man has been charged with rioting and arming himself in public
- NT Police were called to a disturbance involving around 100 people on Tuesday
- Earlier on Tuesday, a fight broke out at the school, forcing it to close
Scott McIntyre, chief executive of local development company Thamarrurr, said a crowd armed with rocks was eventually dispersed by police, before a second scuffle broke out later in the day.
On Tuesday evening, a 29-year-old man was arrested by Northern Territories Police when they were called to a disturbance involving around 100 people brandishing rocks and weapons.
The incident was the second time in three days that police said they had used force, including the use of pepper spray, to disperse crowds.
Another man was taken to the local clinic with a foot injury, police said.
The Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed early community voting this week has not been disrupted.
“We completed our planned service offering from start to finish. Three and a half days and good numbers were reported,” an AEC spokesperson told the ABC.
Mr McIntyre said heavy fighting has become a daily occurrence in Wadeye, where around 500 people have fled the community, south-west of Darwin, in recent weeks after a man was killed and dozens of homes were destroyed. been destroyed – or seriously damaged – by fire. .
He said Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Thamarrurr Catholic School – which caters to students from kindergarten to grade 12 – would likely remain closed for the duration of the week and teachers are now preparing for further disruption.
Mr McIntyre said teachers were shifting ‘their focus from what would have been quite a difficult situation for staff and students to what could happen next week’.
“They are looking at the processes that they can put in place to bring education to camps and homelands, and some of the places where people have been displaced,” he said.
Chief Minister Natasha Fyles was due to visit the community on Friday and, in a statement, Northern Territories Police said they were working with traditional owners to restore calm to the community.
The devastation in Wadeye reaches an unprecedented level
Matthew Eastham, chief executive of West Daly Regional Council, described the situation in Wadeye as “serious and unprecedented”.
He said the council called for the urgent creation of a dedicated high-level task force to address deep-rooted issues.
“Council staff, many of whom are Indigenous, are doing their best under extremely difficult circumstances. Their exposure to social disruption, shame, workplace violence, constant safety fears and cumulative stress is a serious concern and is not sustainable,” said Eastham.
“Enough is enough. We all know these are complex and historic issues that cannot be resolved overnight, so let’s work together to stop the violence now and protect our community in the future.”
Overcrowded houses are overflowing
As the government embarks on the colossal task of repairing houses damaged during weeks of unrest, the houses left standing – already chronically overcrowded – are now filling up with occupants.
“Most of the displaced people are unfortunately still in the community and living with friends, family and other homes,” Mr McIntyre said.
He said while the Northern Territory Government had provided and secured donations to provide food, temporary shelter, medicine and essential items, longer-term solutions were needed for people who had lost their homes. .
Around 250 people are estimated to be seeking refuge in homelands on the outskirts of Wadeye, and repairs to damaged homes could take months.
Mr McIntyre said residents were in desperate need of medium-term accommodation before the onset of the rainy season.
“This will have a big effect in reducing anxiety and tension within Wadeye itself as people are back on land away from the densely populated area,” he said.
“We did our best in a very short period of time by organizing basic tents, basic cooking equipment and that kind of stuff.
Overwhelmed staff and services
After weeks of fighting, Mr McIntyre said essential services had been brought to their knees as staff fled the community.
“Our organizations are at a tipping point,” he said.
“In good times, there aren’t enough resources or people to deliver the services…situations like this add so much stress and tension,” he said.
“This can make it very difficult to concentrate on your daily work, most of our [staff] would be lucky to remember their daily work, because we are all in some way made to react to the situation.”
He said he feared the negative attention received due to the ongoing unrest could jeopardize Wadeye’s future and alienate the workers.
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