• Zac Alexander helps a woman to a safer environment as part of the the Larrakia Nation Night Patrol (Photo/VICE) (VICE)Source: VICE
Meet the Darwin night patroller who is working to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who end up in prison under the Territory’s controversial paperless arrest law.
By
Andrea Booth

14 Sep 2015 - 2:14 PM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2015 - 11:10 AM

Zac Alexander, from Indigenous services organisation Larrakia Nation in Darwin in the Northern Territory, says his aim is to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people doing it tough, by keeping them out of jail for minor offences and instead ushering them to a safe place.

"I'm not here to act like I'm a police," he said in a documentary by VICE that is part of a series that focuses on incarceration in the country. "I'm just here to help the people, try and get 'em home."
 

The night patrol service of Larrakia Nation in Darwin in the Northern Territory helps protect homeless blackfullas in the city who are at risk of commiting minor offences, such as those related to the consumption of alcohol, and may otherwise be locked up by the police, into refuge.

It also works to diffuse potentially tense environments and protect anyone who is in a vulnerable situation who may benefit from being in a safe environment for the night.

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Indigenous over-representation in prison: snapshot of the nation
Indigenous adults are increasingly over-represented in Australia's prison system. While the problem affects the whole nation, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are recording the highest numbers.

Calls to keep people protected from the law has grown louder since the NT paperless arrest law has come into effect, which gives NT police the power to detain a person for up to four hours for minor offences.

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2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that 86 percent of the prison population in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

An inquest continues into the death of Walpiri man, Kumanjayi Langdon, who passed away about three hours after he was taken into police custody at a Darwin watchhouse under the territory’s controversial new law.

Larrakia Nation Night Patrol (Photo/VICE)

Narungga Wirangu and Kaurna elder Tauto Sansbury, who was the former chair of the National Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee, says he wants greater Australia to understand that rates of alcoholism among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is an effect of colonisation.

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Tauto Sansbury, a Narungga elder, has worked to close the gap in inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for more than 30 years.

"You're talking about cultural genocide where Aboriginal people have lost their culture, customs, tradition, language, song and dance," he said in the documentary.

"If you don't have that full understanding of where you come from, you're going to be a lost Aboriginal person, you’re going to be a lost person anyway."

"If you don't have that full understanding of where you come from, you're going to be a lost Aboriginal person"

He speaks about the depression, suicide and disillusion in Indigenous communities, saying that these are the result of a government assimilation policy that removed children of mixed Indigenous descent from their families.

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"They call it transgenerational trauma," Uncle Tauto said of the families who were subjected to the policy, commonly referred to as the Stolen Generations. "But when a non-Aboriginal person says, 'well it happened 50 years ago or one hundred years ago, get over it'…i'’s like telling the Irish to get over England coming into their country."

You can donate to Larrakia Nation Night Patrol here.

Follow Andrea on Twitter @andreasbooth