Unlawful use of private security harming sleeping homeless people in Darwin

Australian Greens

Over the last week we have seen devastating footage of undertrained and heavy-handed private security staff moving on, and in some places accosting, rough sleepers, some of the most vulnerable people in Darwin. This appears to be without legal basis. There are reports of guards clearing people out of the city, to sleep elsewhere, despite a lack of adjunct support services.

The footage is confronting, and the interviews with people affected is heartbreaking. Perhaps even more confronting, is that the NT government fails to recognise that their legally questionable bandaid fixes serve only to make themselves feel better. Asking rough sleepers to move on or out of eyesight does not address the deep inequality and lack of appropriate housing in the Territory. It does nothing to help people – it simply is a vote-seeking strategy to render the issue of homelessness invisible.

This footage comes in the wake of a cabinet reshuffle where Brent Potter, the member for Fannie Bay, was elevated to minister for Police. This is the same member who called on Darwin City Council to fine homeless people for sleeping rough.

The government has spent millions of dollars on this cruel and short sighted response. The NT Greens is calling for this money to be redirected to organisations that can actually help people affected by homelessness, utilising the strength of community relationships. We welcome the promise of increased funding to Larrakia Nation from Minister Linda Burney today, but reiterate that this problem requires long term thinking to address the drivers of homeless, and an increase in remote and local housing infrastructure.

We stand with NT Shelter, Domestic and Family Violence organisations, and Aboriginal Housing NT in calling for the government to make good, transparent decisions as they invest in infrastructure for homelands and town camps, as well as adequately fund services to address the needs of the vulnerable members of the community.

There is a state of neglect and disrepair in Territory housing, and the current approach is embarrassing, cruel, and is leaving people worse off. It’s plain wrong.

As stated by Jonathan Parry:

  • The NT Labor government is lining the pockets of more private companies instead of helping the most vulnerable people in our society.
  • This is a poorly thought out, short-term policy which does nothing to address root causes. It is representative of the NT Labor government’s approach to problems in our community.
  • We call on the government to stop punishing vulnerable Territorians and to fund services which address the root cause of homelessness by investing in housing, health, and community-based approaches to issues.
  • Criminalising homelessness and using private security companies to patrol and move people along is cruel, dehumanising, and doesn’t pass the pub test.
  • We must urgently fund homelessness services in towns and cities to provide real alternatives to sleeping rough.

/Public Release. View in full here.