This week I learned something new...
While attending a public forum held by the Uniting Church Northern Synod I discovered that Darwin is the Broken Jaw capital of the world!
The public forum was about the effects of alcohol on our society. At this forum I discovered that I'm not the only one who has questioned the meaning of the phrase "Antisocial behavior", which is constantly touted by politicians and media... When I first heard this phrase used I naively assumed it would apply all kinds of behaviors that are considered to be 'anti-social' or diminish the safety and freedom of others.... I thought it would definitely apply to the drunken aggressive louts who sprawl out of clubs and swilling joints, or maybe the marauding groups of teenagers who threaten folks who are unlucky enough to be outdoors when they pass. However here in the NT the Phrase is actually code for a particular group of people.
Here in the NT if you hear the phrase Antisocial behavior don't assume that it is referring to any particular behaviour at all. Although there is a local assumption that it is code for Public Aboriginal Drunkenness, I believe it is actually interpreted to mean the presence of Aboriginal people gathered in Public places! Paradoxically if you are an Aboriginal person and happen to be sitting under a tree with your friends and think that you are engaged in a 'social' activity you could find yourself receiving government sanctioned harassment from the police!
I saw a great example of Antisocial Behavior laws being enacted down at the Nightcliff foreshore a few months ago! It was a busy Sunday afternoon at the Beachfront Hotel. I was playing with my wife and kids at a playground near the rapid creek footbridge just opposite the Hotel and there were several small groups of Aboriginal people sitting quietly in the shade of various trees around the park. The hotel was hosting a 'Bikini Bucking Bull' competition and the place was overflowing with drunken men and women all gathered to watch young women bounce around on one of those electronic Bulls in their bikinis! It was a rowdy and drunken scene. semi naked people were spilling out onto the footpath there was a lot of bad language and it was getting a bit rough. we decided to take the kids to a quieter park when three police cars and an ambulance turned up. The ambulance went straight to the Hotel where intoxicated people were being treated... I'm not sure if their injuries were caused by fighting or the electronic bull... The police cars however did something strange... Instead of attending to the messy scene at the hotel, they drove into the park. About 6 officers approached the groups of Aboriginal people sitting in the park. They turned out their bags, searched their belongings for alcohol and told them to move on!
If you have any question about what Antisocial behaviour means check out the Alcohol restricted areas along Nightcliff foreshore on Australia day! There is an obvious assumption that restrictions apply only to Indigenous people. If a bunch of white folk choose to take their Eskie down to the foreshore to celebrate their Australianess by getting drunk and eating sausages with sauce, nothing could be considered more acceptable or social... police will just cruise on by. However if the cops come across a group of Indigenous people doing the very same thing on the very same day... How is that interpreted?
It's alright if you're white but "If you're Black you'd might as well not show up on the street
'Less you wanna draw the heat" (Bob Dylan - Hurricane)
While at the forum I also learned that I live in the Broken Jaw Capital of The World! Apparently predominantly caused by alcohol fueled violence! (predominantly caused by non indigenous drunken behavior)
It is a busy time for me at work at the moment and a big part of my job involves running errands and escorting visitors around. Sometimes I have to help people find relatives who have come to Darwin and are possibly in the Long Grass or living on the streets. After the forum one of the ladies who was attending from Derby W.A asked if I could take her to "that Broken Jaw Street?"
I wasn't sure at first what she was referring to but then I figured it out... There is one street in Darwin that is renowned for the antics of intoxicated people with bad attitudes, it is a place of drunkenness which often leads to the violence responsible for the over abundance of Broken Jaws our town appears to be famous for.
My friend's reference to the street was quite prophetic so from now on I think it's time to re-name Darwin's Mitchel Street! Let's call it like we see it! The "Broken Jaw Street" sounds right to me. Actually maybe we should rename the whole tourist precinct? Just as a certain neighborhood in San Francisco known as the "Tenderloin" is considered a somewhat dangerous place, maybe we should now refer to the Darwin Tourist precinct as "The Broken Jaw"!