Residents of the remote Top End community of Wadeye, 240 kilometres south-west of Darwin, have questioned the police response to fighting that saw four people evacuated for medical treatment.
- Wadeye residents say violence has escalated and a house was recently burnt down
- Some are asking why more police have not been sent to the community
- NT Police say a “whole-of-government” response to the unrest is underway
“Over the weekend there was a duplex house that was burnt down, with people actually residing in that home. Now they have nowhere to live,” said Julie Bamford, who works as a nurse at the local Catholic school.
“There are cars being burned, property being damaged.”
According to CareFlight, four people were flown out of the community to be treated for injuries related to alleged criminal incidents over the weekend.
Stephen Bunduck, who said he was a traditional owner in the area, told the ABC that unrest between rival family groups had escalated in the weeks since a young man was allegedly seriously injured.
“I’m worrying about my people around here, because there are kids.
“They cannot do their shopping at the shop — nothing.”
Children missing medicine, falling asleep in class
Ms Bamford said the few children still attending school had been falling asleep in the classroom after long, restless nights.
She added that the unrest, alongside a lack of local services, had exacerbated disadvantage in the community’s majority Indigenous population.
“The children who have rheumatic heart disease aren’t getting their penicillin injections because the nurses can’t get around the community because of the fighting, or the children are out hiding,” she said.
Ms Bamford said after a recent break-in near her accommodation, police told her they needed more assistance to deal with the problems.
She said she too believed the local police needed more resources.
“I’m sure the police have their reasons, but because they’re not communicating, we don’t know why,” Ms Bamford said.
Ms Bamford’s partner, Aaron Healey, who works in service delivery in Wadeye questioned why a specialist taskforce called the Territory Response Group had not been deployed to quell the violence.
“When a situation gets to this point, they normally get the TRG team from Darwin out,” he said.
NT Police confirmed on Monday that “nightly skirmishes” had led to some property damage in Wadeye, including a fire that was under investigation at the time.
In a statement today, NT Police said they were monitoring the situation in Wadeye.
“The safety of the community and our members is a priority. NT Police send resources to where they’re required to support local members,” the statement said.
NT Police consulting with local leaders
NT Police said there was a “whole-of-government response” to the issue involving local leaders and organisations.
“I’m not able to comment on operational issues and deployments,” Acting Divisional Superintendent of the Central Division, Tanya Woodcock, said.
“What I can say, though, is often we deal with a perception that police aren’t present when in fact police are all throughout the community at different times, dealing with different problems.
“It’s just that perhaps when they’re really busy, they might not be as visible as at different times.”
But she said a “loud minority” was occasionally disrupting the effort to achieve a peaceful resolution.
Mr Bunduck said he had implored locals to stop the violence.
“I’m the big boss for this place too, for my country, in Wadeye,” Mr Bunduck said.
“That’s why I’m trying to be stopping all my people around here, to be good to one another and live in harmony in this place.”