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

Aaron Bunch
NT’s new chief to tackle social issues

New chief minister Natasha Fyles plans to tackle growing social issues in the Northern Territory, including alcohol abuse and property crime.

May 16, 2022

The Northern Territory’s new chief minister Natasha Fyles has hit the ground running in her first week in office with a promise to tackle social issues and their causes.

Alcohol abuse, domestic and sexual violence and property crime have all soared in recent years. The homelessness rate is 12 times the national average.

The former health minister says she’ll work to “quickly tweak” social policies to make a “significant impact” in the territory.

“We have to change something because what we’ve seen across our communities … it hasn’t eased up,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

Ms Fyles also promised to tackle crime rates, signalling more resources would be allocated to address the causes “to stop this before it happens”.

“It’s a priority. Clearly what we’re doing isn’t working because we’re still seeing these issues on a regular basis,” she said.

The ex-school teacher said consultation with the health sector and police over alcohol sales and consumption policies was already underway.

“We know that alcohol is the basis for so much crime and family and domestic violence,” she said.

The NT’s challenging economic position could slow Ms Fyles’ reform agenda, however, with last week’s budget revealing net debt is set to grow to $9.4 billion by 2025/26.

“Labor’s current strategy to address record levels of crime isn’t working,” opposition spokesman Joshua Burgoyne said.

“This is an opportunity for a reset, and for the new Labor leader to prove she’s prepared to listen to Territorians, who desperately want urgent action.”

Ms Fyles was sworn in as NT Labor leader on Friday, following predecessor Michael Gunner’s surprise resignation last week.

Cabinet will remain the same for the next week of parliamentary sittings with Ms Fyles adding Mr Gunner’s portfolios, including treasury, defence relations and major projects, to the health and tourism ministries.

A new leadership team and cabinet will be selected the week after, with changes expected.

Ms Fyles, from the left faction, is the second woman to be appointed NT chief minister after Labor’s Clare Martin in 2001.

The territory has the highest per capita alcohol consumption and rate of alcohol-attributable deaths in Australia, according to the NT Council of Social Service.

One in every 17 people in the NT’s 246,500-strong population is homeless and 48 per cent of those seeking homelessness services are turned away from housing and shelter services.

Domestic violence-related assaults surged by 27 per cent and alcohol-related assaults increased by 31 per cent in 2020/21, NT police say.

On average, there are 61 domestic and family violence incidents per day, which is about three times higher than any other jurisdiction, according to the NT government.

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