Malcolm Turnbull has signalled a remote Northern Territory town in crisis could receive a regional deal, similar to federal government agreements in three cities around Australia.
Mr Turnbull became the first prime minister to visit Tennant Creek since 1982 when he spent Sunday afternoon and evening touring the troubled outback centre.
‘There’s a shortage of housing in Tennant,’ Mr Turnbull told reporters at the end of the first of two days in the NT.
‘There’s real potential for us to take an approach similar to what we’ve done with city deals.’
Malcolm Turnbull became the first Prime Minister to visit Tennant Creek since Malcolm Fraser in 1982
The deals involve money to grow and improve cities for the future, with work already starting in Launceston, Townsville and Western Sydney.
The town was thrust into the spotlight in February after the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl.
Tennant Creek’s regional deal would get three tiers of government together, along with indigenous and cultural groups, to agree on the town’s priorities.
‘It’s the difference between ships going more or less in the same direction and passing in the night, and actually working together with a shared vision,’ Mr Turnbull said.
The prime minister rounded out his first day in the town, which has been rocked by a child protection crisis, by visiting children playing sport and dancing in a disco at a community centre.
That was after riding with the Youth Night Patrol, which helps get kids on the streets get home safely.
After delivering a speech during the day, Mr Turnbull joined the community night patrol
The night patrol travels the streets of Tennant Creek and offers kids a safe ride home
Mr Turnbull addressed a dinner at the Papulu Apparr-Kaki language centre, with food provided by the Future Stars indigenous training program.
Earlier he visited that program’s base and local businesses, as well as meeting with a regional economic development group.
Barkly Regional Council mayor Steve Edgington, who has lobbied for a regional deal for Tennant Creek, told AAP Mr Turnbull’s comments had been very positive.
One heckler aside, Mr Turnbull received a warm reception as he arrived at the airport.
On arrival he was given a welcome to country in the local Aboriginal language, to which he responded in the same language.
‘I know Tennant Creek has had its challenges in recent times and I know you are facing these challenges head on with great courage, leadership and collaboration,’ Mr Turnbull said.
Tennant Creek was rocked after the alleged rape of a two-year-old toddler in February
In June, it was revealed the NT government had removed 15 children from their families around the town, when it was deemed unsafe.
A Northern Territory parliamentary estimates hearing was also told at least one child is sexually exploited or abused in the Territory each week.
Mr Turnbull said governments needed to work with indigenous people, rather than telling them what to do.
At the end of the speech, one man in the crowd yelled at the prime minister ‘to look after our country rather than yourself and your business mates’.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the man had caused offence to local people by disrupting the welcoming ceremony.
One heckler called out at the end of his speech, asking the prime minister to ‘look after our country rather than yourself and your business mates’