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Violence tears apart Wadeye -

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Violence tears apart Wadeye

Reporter: Lindy Kerin

KERRY O'BRIEN: It's home to the biggest Aboriginal community in the Top End, but Wadeye, south-west
of Darwin, is also one of the most disadvantaged towns in the whole country. For the past three
years, it's been part of a national trial to improve services to Indigenous communities. Indeed,
Prime Minister John Howard visited Wadeye last year to highlight the progress being made. But
tonight Wadeye is beset by gang violence and fear. Local authorities are considering the drastic
step of evacuating hundreds of its inhabitants. The violence at Wadeye has escalated over the past
few months and women and children have been forced to flee their homes. Lindy Kerin was allowed a
rare visit to the restricted community and filed this report.

MICHELLE PARMBUK: They were scared they might get bashed up, so they had to come and stay at my
place because it's safe here.

LINDY KERIN: Over the past fortnight, Michelle Parmbuk's backyard has become a virtual tent city.
More than 60 people, mostly women and children, have fled here to escape the gang violence which is
tearing apart the Wadeye community, the Territory's sixth largest town.

MICHELLE PARMBUK: They feel scared. It really affects them. They feel really scared and I hear all
these young boys screaming and yelling. And I see them smashing, damaging property.

LINDY KERIN: One of the gangs involved in the violence is the Evil Warriors. There are 400 or so
members, some as young as 6 years old. They regularly clash with their rivals, Judas Priest. And
how do you fight them? What happens...

GANG MEMBER: Just spear, crowbar, machete knife, rock.

LINDY KERIN: The feud between the Evil Warriors and Judas Priest has been going on for at least
five years. None of the locals here are quite sure sparked latest outbreak of violence which has
caused more than $450,000 damage to homes. The residents of this house were forced to flee their
home when the gangs attacked on Saturday night.

MANDY LEGGETT, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT WORKER: I believe there were a couple of kids in there when it
happened and they were hiding in the ceiling while it happened.

LINDY KERIN: Community leaders like Theodora Narndu say people are living in fear.

THEODORA NARNDU: Especially the women and children. It's like a nightmare for me.

LINDY KERIN: The gang violence is also stopping many students from going to school. There are
almost 700 kids who should be in class. But only 100 of them feel safe to leave their homes.

TOBIAS NGANBE, CO-PRINCIPAL, THAMARRURR SCHOOL: The parent, the mums, the aunts, the grandmothers,
are very scared to send the children to school. You get young fellas throwing spears, throwing
whatever they can get.

LINDY KERIN: The escalating violence has led the Wadeye community council to look at evacuating up
to 300 people to Darwin.

TERRY BULLEMOR, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THAMARRURR REGIONAL COUNCIL: We'll have to talk to people in
Darwin about what is the possibility of these people being relocated to Darwin, schooled in Darwin
for a period, till we can actually make sure that things are right here.

LINDY KERIN: The Wadeye community was set up as a Catholic mission in the 1930s. It's now home to
more than 2,500 people. But there's no high school, unemployment is around 90 per cent, and there's
chronic overcrowding with up to 30 people to a house.

PETER SEIDEL, LAWYER: The gang warfare that's going on, the community says is a manifestation of
gross systemic underfunding across-the-board.

LINDY KERIN: Peter Seidel is a public interest law partner with Sydney firm Arnold Loch Leibler. He
is going to Wadeye tomorrow as part of his work with the community to determine the level of
funding there and whether there are grounds for a racial discrimination case.

PETER SEIDEL: We're expecting to see a community in desperate need of help. There is argy-bargy
between the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Government. Underneath all of that
cries out the voice of the community, and the community is crying out because it knows, as a fact,
that there is this gross underfunding of education in the community. So that is a fact. For every
dollar spent by the Northern Territory Government on education in the Territory, 48 cents in the
dollar is spent on the community.

LINDY KERIN: The Territory Government has dismissed the figures and says plans are well under way
to build a high school at the community. The Chief Minister, Clare Martin, was at Wadeye three
years ago the community celebrated being selected to take part in the council of Australian
Governments trial to improve services in Indigenous communities. The COAG agreement was signed with
great fanfare and high hopes. Clare Martin has today admitted COAG hasn't delivered what it
promised.

CLARE MARTIN, NT CHIEF MINISTER: I do believe it's got worse. That the burden of administration for
the council in Wadeye has actually got tougher.

LINDY KERIN: Tracker Tilmouth from the Northern Land Council has been working to develop economic
opportunities for the Wadeye community. Today, he was in Darwin looking at the potential for
crocodile farming in the region. Right now, Tracker Tilmouth believes Wadeye is a town without
hope.

TRACKER TILMOUTH, NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL: How do you tell young kids that you really have no future,
you got no job, there is nothing for you to go to? You've got a 98 per cent unemployment rate
you're highly intelligent, you're physically fit, you're keen as, you're breathing life, right, but
there is no future. You got nowhere to go. Right? Your life: go to Berrimah jail - that's your
future. Go to the CDP program - that's your future. Right, go to hospital and look at the dialysis
machine - that's your future.

LINDY KERIN: Tracker Tilmouth says, for the people of Wadeye, COAG has been a big disappointment.

TRACKER TILMOUTH, NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL: Both governments - Northern Territory and Federal - and
previous Northern Territory Governments, should be held up in front of a court and they have a full
inquiry into the way they've delivered services to Aboriginal people.

CLARE MARTIN, NT CHIEF MINISTER: I've been here for, you know, nearly a quarter of a century in the
Territory, and Wadeye is a community that does have troubles from time to time. And while it
probably has that reputation in the Territory, it is also a community with an enormous heart, and
it's also a community that is really striving to particularly achieve better outcomes for their
children.

LINDY KERIN: The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Tom Calma recently visited Wadeye
and is waiting to hear whether the community will lodge a complaint against the Northern Territory
Government.

TOM CALMA, HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSIONER: We'll consider it to see whether it
breaches the Race Discrimination Act or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act, and if that's
the case, we will endeavour to conciliate between parties. Now, if we can't reach conciliation
that's mutually acceptable, the option of the community is to be able to take it to the courts.

LINDY KERIN: An evaluation report on the progress of Wadeye has just been submitted to the Federal
Government, but for the people of Wadeye they've already given up on COAG.

THEODORA NARNDU: It's about time; we walk away from that. It's nearly six years. Nothing has ever
changed.