Deep North Dispatch #4


A weekly wrap of what’s been happening across the Top End news-wise, which might be handy for former residents who really miss reading about this sort of thing. May contain cane toads and/or crocodiles.


The Top End’s crocodiles turn into whimpering”¦wimps during windy weather, according to researchers. Several crocs fitted with tracking devices abandoned their coastal cruising and sheltered in estuaries during a strong monsoonal flow earlier this year, something that hasn’t been observed before.

Source: NT News


Territory jails are at bursting point, with record numbers of prisoners in both Alice Springs and Darwin prisons. More offenders have been jailed since Labor won power in 2001 than ever before. Prison authorities are weighing up their options, which may include pushing for a new jail to be built. Meanwhile the opening of a new low-security facility due to open last September has been delayed again ‘because there’s no money left to buy beds’.

Source: NT News


Confusion is mounting over a government plan to introduce ‘middle schools’ across the Territory from the start of next year. The proposed changes would see year 10 students join senior secondary colleges, while year 7, 8 and 9 students would make up ‘sub-schools’. Under the plan at least one existing high school will close and fears have been raised that others will become overcrowded. It’s been suggested that ‘overflow’ students might be accommodated in vacant office blocks, which are in abundant supply.

Source: NT News


Katherine residents are in panic mode after the mysterious deaths of three men in the Katherine River. The three men, all Aboriginal itinerants, drowned. Their bodies were found in different sections of the river over a week. While the deaths are not being treated as suspicious, some Indigenous residents have admitted they’re scared. “We don’t know what’s going on,” one said.

Source: NT News


A crucial document wasn’t seen by the scientist who rejected the proposed McArthur River Mine expansion. The 190-page report detailed how the mine would address environmental concerns. A government spokesperson says the scientist was given all the information he needed. Professor Wayne Erskine expressed surprise that he wasn’t given the document. “I don’t know why it wasn’t made available,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

Source: NT News


The Northern Territory Government has defended its kava licensing laws despite supply levels being twice the maximum deemed safe by Australia’s food standards body. A review by Food Standards Australia says more than 400 grams of kava a week has dangerous health implications. The Territory’s licensing system allows people in Arnhem Land to purchase up to 800 grams a week. Licensing Minister Syd Stirling says there is no easy way to set a safe limit. However, the government says it would throw its support behind any move to impose an Australia-wide ban on Kava.

Source: ABC News Online


-Former Chief Minister Denis Burke is quitting the Territory to take up a position with Perth Racing in Western Australia.

-Illegal fishermen ‘camped’ on North Australian beaches at least 18 times last year, according to the Navy.

-The Territory has the worst electrical safety record in the country, with five electrocution deaths in the past two years.

-At 7.1 per cent, the Territory now has the worst unemployment figures in the country, says the ABS.

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15 years ago

Territory jails are at bursting point, with record numbers of prisoners in both Alice Springs and Darwin prisons.

The Waratah state also has record numbers of prisoners, achieved under Labor. As I understand it, this splendid achievement has been accompanied by a rise in crime rates in most categories (excepting murders, the decline in which is more likely due to the gun laws).

Ken Parish
15 years ago

In fact the most recent available data at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (see here) shows crime in all categories either down or stable over the last 2 years. The sole exception is fraud which is up by 8%.

The pattern is similar in the NT too (see here), with crime against the person down significantly but property crime rates stable.

So in fact the apparently increasing imprisonment rates in both jurisdictions probably represent the result of tougher legislative responses and judges responding to those signals from the legislature by imposing more frequent and longer prison sentences. However I haven’t done even quick research to verify whether those propositions are true (although logically they must be except to the extent that population increase might explain it).

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
15 years ago

Ken, Wicking;

The Office of Crime Prevention publishes figures on both crime rates and incarceration:

15 years ago

Ken, the problem is the last two years is a cherry-pick. NSW hit the record some years back – 4 or 5 or more years ago – and there needs to be a correlation in some way with the trends in sentencing policy to make a ‘success’ case.

Presumably there is a point at which the rate at which you put folks away will outstrip the rate at which new crims can be produced – a pause perhaps analagous to lagging exports due to a temporary exhaustion of stocks.

Whether the real incidence/risk of crime is rising or falling due to the effects of increased population incarceration rates requires a more robust study, and I feel (pretty) sure I’m right about the general trend (I have some 10-year evidence somewhere, and will dig around when I get a mo: but my memory is that the non-correlation is stark).