Labor Member for Karama Ngaree Ah Kit has faced sharp criticism for holding an invite-only community crime forum in her electorate office attended by eight hand-selected people who may or may not have been victims of crime.
Karama was recently identified by the NT Police as one of the worst hit northern suburbs experiencing a crime wave.
Ms Ah Kit said she wanted to discuss the issue with “eight wonderful community members” before letting the wider community have their say, despite initially billing the event as open to the community.
“[The group of eight] all have their own skill set and experiences and have all been touched by crime,” she told Mix 104.9. “Some long-term residents, all focused on a way forward.”
But she later said she wasn’t sure if everyone in the unnamed group was affected by crime in her community, but assumed they had been because they had lived there for more than 20 years.
“I would be really surprised if not everybody was directly impacted,” she said.
Ms Ah Kit added the purpose of the intimate meeting was to create a “strong community voice” to ensure “people in the community are actually heard” through the committee.
“The idea was to get a small group of people together to have a really detailed chat about a way forward so the community can have that voice,” she said.
“It’s about supporting the community to have a voice and to make sure that can stand alone going forward.”
Ms Ah Kit’s interview elicited a strong response from the community with people messaging the 360 radio show to suggest Ms Ah Kit has been too silent for the last four years on crime. Another said Ms Ah Kit and the Gunner Government have been aware of the issues in the community for years but have not taken action.
CLP Deputy Opposition Leader Gerard Maley pointed to a recent rural community forum on crime that attracted 250 people and said Ms Ah Kit’s meeting was “ridiculous” and showed how “out of touch” the Gunner Government is on crime issues.
“This is the ultimate act of window dressing,” Mr Maley said. “Holding a community meeting at late notice where only eight hand-picked people could attend is ridiculous. This just demonstrates how out of touch they are. Many more people wanted to have their voices heard.
“Furthermore, instead of holding a community meeting for appearances, Ngaree Ah Kit should pick up the phone, call the Chief Minister and tell him to take action on crime. She is part of the Government.”
Ms Ah Kit said the new committee of eight was assembled to discuss issues in the community with a proper community meeting to be held in the new year. But she later said the group wanted to hold a community forum on December 14.
“We want to make sure the community is engaged and that they are completely independent from what I want and what I need … as the local member,” she said. “The committee said to me very clearly the number one priority is to engage every community member.”
Other texts to the station reiterated community sentiment that everyone is tired of talking and that action is needed to address the crime issues.
But Ms Ah Kit said it was more important that the community have a working group and a chance to air their concerns to the group without her being involved.
“[The group] should not be set up to have a politician or have government or any of the service providers telling the group what needs to happen, this has to be the other way around,” she said.
Mr Maley said people wanted to see action, not talk-fests.
“Back in June the Gunner Labor Government committed to a range of measures to combat crime. They’ve been in power for over four years and have done nothing to address the increasing crime, our communities are falling apart. It’s not good enough.
“The Gunner Labor Government has its head completely buried in the sand on crime.”