NT intervention: Victims of avoidable tragedies

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Police are victims of the dysfunctional communication systems of the NorthernTerritory Emergency Response as much as the Aboriginal people they are employed to serve. As last week’s report from the NTERReview Board points out, the NTER has produced confusion, fear and anger in many Aboriginal communities and a marked increase in Aboriginal people’s distrust of government.
There is at least one family group inArnhem Land that blames the policy fort he death of their 22-year-old son Clinton Pamkal, who committed suicide after he escaped police custody eight weeks ago. Clinton’s death has been a focus of media attention over the last two weeks, including a segment on the current events program, The 7.30 Report.
Clinton’s relationship with his 15-year-old promised wife was accepted by both his family and hers. They were young. However, she was under the NorthernTerritory age of consent of 16 years.When the police found out, Clinton was charged with carnal knowledge, and ordered not to see her. Some time later he returned to the community to visit family (and be near his girlfriend), transgressing a condition of his bail. He was arrested by FederalPolice officers based at the police station at Bulman, in Central ArnhemLand, recently established as part of the NTER. Without the safety network of cultural knowledge, the police over-reacted to Clinton’s escape from custody, calling in reinforcements from Katherine, over 300kms away on mostly dirt road, and conducting a house-to-house search at dawn, causing serious damage to community relationships. (Ask yourself how you would feel if every room in your house was searched at dawn because the police were seeking a young neighbour for a less than major crime). The outcome was tragic.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationCrikey
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2008


  • Northern Territory Intervention
  • Youth suicide
  • Aboriginal communities in remote areas
  • Police


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