The major parties will build prisons for votes - and we offer an alternative

By Asta Hill, NT Greens Candidate for Braitling 


My hometown, Mparntwe Alice Springs has been in the news a lot lately. And not for good reasons. But I want to tell you my perspective as someone born and raised here, and as someone now trying to make history - to be the first ever Greens member of NT Parliament.

I felt safe and free growing up in Alice Springs - gallivanting from one friend’s house to the next after school. The only demand was that we were home before dark. 

I decided to raise my kids here because I wanted that experience for them, too. But these days the neighbourhood looks different. Fences soar higher, with dutiful albeit terrifying dogs guarding behind them. I understand why people erect higher fences. Or choose a bigger, louder dog at the pound. We take crime prevention into our own hands when other measures aren’t working. 

Community safety keeps many of us awake at night, whether it’s the direct experience of having our homes entered and cars stolen or hearing about break-ins from friends or on the news. It’s the main thing people talk about when my supporters and I knock on doors in the electorate. It’s also why people are leaving this place they call home, and why some essential workers choose not to build a life here.  

Asta Hill and NT Greens out doorknocking

I am running as the Greens candidate for Braitling in this election because we all deserve to feel safe, free and connected, like I did. Our community does not deserve to have its safety exploited as a political football. The victims of property crime have been sold the lie that more police and more prisons, and, by extension, more people in prison, will keep the community safe.

Let’s be clear - this is not just a community safety issue - but a First Nations Justice issue. First peoples are grossly overrepresented in Territory prisons, often in deplorable conditions which breach fundamental human rights. 87% of the adult prison population and 97% of kids in detention are First Nations people. The over-reliance on incarceration in the Territory causes enormous and inter-generational harm to First Nations communities. And yet, Labor & the CLP have promised to build two new prisons if elected in August. But why build two new prisons, unless you plan to fill them with people?

Working both as a prosecutor and legal aid lawyer for almost 10 years in Alice Springs, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. What absolutely doesn’t work: sacrificing evidence, research and principle for political gain. Both Labor and the Country CLP are guilty of this.

Over the last decade, I’ve seen our prison population increase by a third. Despite having one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world, Territorians are feeling less safe in their homes and on the streets because three quarters of people imprisoned end up back in prison. Prisons are the worst places to change peoples’ behaviour or their circumstances and they are the best place to entrench disadvantage and crime. 

The NT Greens’ policy on justice and community safety is not about the politics but informed by the reality on the ground and what experts have already proven to work. If we want safe communities we need to focus on what people need - a safe place to live, access to nutritious food, a sense of purpose and a way to meaningfully participate in their community.

This election, we are the only party who is prepared to take this issue head on and talk about what actually works to make everyone in our community safer.

Urgently meet the basic needs of young people

  • There are more than 200 kids experiencing homelessness in Alice Springs each night, yet our only youth crisis accommodation consists of seven beds. Expanding crisis accommodation and drop in centres, offering young people a safe place to eat and rest, will make an immediate difference. 

Addressing overcrowding by expanding access to housing 

  • We have the worst rates of overcrowding in Australia with Territorians waiting up to 10 years for public housing. Recent Territory and Federal investment in remote housing is important for remote communities, but we also urgently need a massive increase in our urban public housing stock.

  • As a medium term measure, youth specific accommodation in Alice Springs will provide safe and stable accommodation and wrap around supports.

Adequately funding Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Services

  • The domestic family and sexual violence epidemic in the Territory is the major driver of crime and crowding in jails, with two thirds of people in prison being charged with domestic family and sexual violence. Women are being murdered and many homes are not safe for women and their children. The Greens stand with the domestic violence sector and support its call for at least $180 million over five years for prevention and early intervention. 

Establishing a Breaking the Cycle Fund

  • As recommended by the Justice Reform Initiative, a Breaking the Cycle Fund will invest in evidence-based, independently evaluated early intervention and prevention programs, which step in well before people approach the revolving door of incarceration. It would also invest in post-release programmes that help people escape the conditions that landed them in jail, drastically reducing the likelihood of re-offending. 

The major parties in the NT are in a race to the bottom and they are promising voters an overnight fix. We are seeing unprecedented amounts of funding to expand and build more prisons and to fund more police. 

Territorians are ready to hold their elected representatives accountable for these shameful tactics. I’ve spoken with countless victims of crime on my weekly door-knocks who don’t want more people locked up, particularly kids. Our communities want policies that look after vulnerable people in our community, that keep kids out of prison and that keep families connected.  And that is what the Greens offer. 

The NT has some of the highest rates of incarceration in the world. We have suffered from governments of both major parties creating short term, harmful policies which fail to make anyone safer. The NT is the only jurisdiction in Australia never to have had a Greens member of parliament. But we have an opportunity to make history and have a progressive, Green member of NT Parliament in August 2024.

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