Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Concern as hundreds flee NT violence

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has raised concerns about the welfare of hundreds of displaced people amid a violent feud in a remote Northern Territory community.

May 4, 2022

A federal senator has raised concerns about the Northern Territory’s response to a violent feud between rival clans in a remote Indigenous community.

One man has died after reportedly being speared in the head in Wadeye, 400km southwest of Darwin, and 37 homes have been extensively damaged by fire during the unrest.

That’s left hundreds of people displaced from the community of about 3000, with reports women and children have fled to the bush with little more than blankets.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy says people are in “desperate situations” and basic humanitarian needs are not being met.

“This means shelter, food, sanitation, and medication,” she said in a statement provided to AAP on Wednesday.

“It’s unacceptable what is taking place in Wadeye in terms of hundreds of people being forced out of town and into surrounding homelands and bush camps.”

The Northern Land Council echoed the concerns about the impact of the violence and said it was working to help families affected by the unrest families.

“Government has a clear law and order responsibility,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

The NLC said all levels of government had failed to fix overcrowding in remote communities, which was a contributing factor to tensions.

“The answers lie in more support for homelands as well as an opportunity for mediation of family disputes before they escalate to intra-family violence.”

The NLC said it had provided $100,000 for essential items, including temporary accommodation, food, nappies and personal hygiene products.

NT Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison visited Wadeye on Tuesday to meet with community leaders, public servants and police.

The NT government says it’s coordinating a multi-agency response with NGOs, the regional council and local Aboriginal organisations.

Food and other essentials, such as sanitation, shelter, bedding, clothing and fuel, are being supplied to displaced people.

Staff are also assessing people’s immediate needs and housing repairs.

Ms Manison has previously said “huge” amounts of government resources are provided to the community on an ongoing basis and the unrest was due to historic tensions.

The community, formerly known as Port Keats, was established as a Catholic mission in 1935 after traditional owners in the area murdered three Japanese fishermen, according to Thamarrurr Development Corporation.

Wadeye is now one of the largest Indigenous communities in the NT and home to about 20 clan groups. It is all but closed to the public without a permit.

A media visit to the community was planned for Wednesday but it was cancelled after traditional owners asked reporters to stay away.

With an estimated 10 people living in each home in remote NT communities and 37 homes damaged, more than 350 people could now be displaced.

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