The ABC’s flagship radio show AM has been accused of biased coverage of the Alice Springs youth crime wave after claiming a packed town crisis meeting was filled with ‘white supremacists’.
Thousands of fed-up locals attended the Save Alice Springs meeting on Monday night as the town grapples with a crime crisis, with residents threatening to sue the Northern Territory government for $1.5billion in compensation.
The audience at the town hall meeting was comprised of terrified families, business owners and Indigenous leaders – but the national broadcaster’s reporter reported just those who were critical of the meeting.
Despite the wide range of perspectives, the ABC radio and TV reporter Carly Williams focused on four claims by locals, including one woman who said the meeting was a ‘scary’ ‘white supremacist fest’.
Thousands of locals gathered at a crisis meeting in Alice Springs on Monday night to discuss the town’s youth crime wave
ABC reporter Carly Williams (pictured) gave a live cross for the broadcaster’s TV program and submitted a radio segment
In the segment aired on AM radio on Tuesday, Carly Williams said many locals left the ‘deeply divisive’ meeting frustrated or in tears.
The clip heard from only people who slammed the meeting as ‘racist’.
‘It was really a disgusting show of white supremacy… It was really, really disappointing,’ one woman said.
‘It was scary to be in that room.’
Another told the program: ‘Tension and violence and anger in the room was palpable and it was clearly all around white supremacy and the safety of white people in this town – and that is all that was being considered.’
Another woman described the meeting as ‘bizarre’ and ‘dangerous’.
‘I am far more concerned about the dangers posed by those people in there – those white people that [sic] have a choice to live here – then those vulnerable Aboriginal children whose connection to this country cannot be broken,’ she said.
‘If they don’t like living here, if they have a problem with it, then leave.’
A fourth resident said some of the locals used the meeting as an ‘effective’ and ‘clever attempt’ to rally people around the cause of criminalising behaviour of ‘vulnerable’ youths.
Another woman, an Indigenous midwife and youthworker, told Williams that the community needed to acknowledge that there was a ‘lot of racism put onto First Nations mob’.
She said locals in Alice Springs want to ‘blame’ someone because they ‘don’t see the wider picture of what First Nations people have been through historically’.
However, other locals have offered a considerably different portrayal of the meeting, with some describing the gathering as a success.
‘I am so proud to see the number of locals giving their time and support to help bring change,’ local business owner and lifelong resident Garth Thompson posted on Facebook after the event.
‘I’m proud to be a local here in Alice Springs, the community coming together tonight was a showing of what is possible in our amazing town!!!’
On the the ABC’s television news, an interview with just one woman who was critical of the meeting was aired.
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson has called for the ABC report to be retracted
The woman said:’ They could be putting that $1.5 billion into dealing with the causes of the crimes.. Instead they want to take punitive approaches… It’s a total white supremacist fest in there – and I can tell you – it was scary.’
However, 2GB host Ben Fordham pointed out the AM segment was ‘even worse’, with the segment featuring the comments of four people who all claimed the event was filled with ‘white supremacies’.
‘Out of the thousands of people who attended the meeting, we only heard from one person in that report – a woman who had left early,’ Fordham said on air on Wednesday.
‘We didn’t hear from the terrified locals or the worried mums and dads – we only heard of claims of racism from a woman who walked out [of the meeting] – someone who did not represent the whole mood in the room’.
‘And there were no examples given of the so-called ”white supremacy” – no quotes, no footage, no audio.’
‘We didn’t hear from any of the concerned locals, they didn’t play any of the comments from inside the hall – I’m not sure if [she] was inside – that was not clear from her story,’ Fordham said on air on Wednesday.
He added that both the TV segment and radio report did not include any footage of the views that were expressed within the meeting as locals discussed their concerns about crime.
‘Their coverage of the meeting was reckless and ruthlessly one-sided,’ Fordham said.
‘They ignored the issues…And just turned into a fight between black and white.
‘And IF racist comments were made… what were they? And where’s the proof?’
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson called for the broadcaster to retract the story, saying the report ‘couldn’t be further from the truth’.
‘It’s a kick in the teeth to residents who have put up with this for far too long,’ he told reporters.
Alice Springs in the Northern Territory has recently descended into chaos with locals now afraid to go to sleep in fear of home intruders
The Prime Minister recently made a short visit to the town where he announced new alcohol restrictions
‘It’s adding unnecessary anxiety when we are all trying to come together to address the issue and here you’ve got the ABC lighting the fuse to have a race war.’
During her live cross to ABC TV, reporter Carly Williams said ’emotional’ people were ‘leaving early and streaming out of the convention centre’.
She said the ‘jammed’ meeting, which had up to 2000 attendees, discussed property damage, people not feeling safe in their homes or cars.
Although only one interview was aired, Williams said she had spoken to various locals including business owners who ‘were happy to be heard about their concerns about not feeling safe in town’.
Asked by presenter Joe O’Brien how Indigenous custodians felt about the conference, Williams said some were ‘blindsided’ by plans to sue the government, the lack of discussion for alternative solutions and the absence of young people.
Williams, a First Nations Quandamooka woman, is a journalist with the ABC’s audio and current affairs team.
She was formerly the Senior Editor at HuffPost Australia and has worked at the Australian Associated Press and Pacific Magazines.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted ABC for comment.
Namfon Fon’s son, 16, was set upon by three youths armed with an axe who struck him on his ‘face, stomach, leg and other parts of his body’ in Alice Springs on Monday
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