The brutal bashing of an elderly Katherine man was raised in NT Parliament yesterday.
The Government was asked what its response would be to escalating crime in regional areas like Katherine.
NT Opposition leader Garry Higgins said the bashing of 78-year-old Bevan Gitsham earlier in the week had horrified people across the Territory.
Mr Gitsham was sitting in his Katherine East home eating breakfast about 5.30 on Monday morning when an unknown assailant entered and struck him savagely three times with a stick.
Mr Gitsham was rushed to Katherine Hospital with large lacerations to his head and cuts and bruises covering his face and body.
Mr Gitsham, a keen gardener who often gives his home-grown produce to neighbours and friends for free, didn’t know his attacker, and has no idea why he was the target.
There was a tidal wave of support for Mr Gitsham on the Katherine Times’ Facebook page offering support for Mr Gitsham and calling for the full penalty of the law to be applied once his attacker is found.
Mr Higgins raised the issue in Parliament yesterday.
“My question is to the Chief Minister… Chief Minister, last week you announced your anti-social behaviour plan. Except you blatantly disregarded all Territorians outside of Darwin,” Mr Higgins said.
“Chief Minister, what do you say to the 78-year old Katherine man Bevan Gitsham who was brutally attacked in his home this week?
“Chief Minister, why are you ignoring the crime and alcohol crisis in Katherine in favour of people who in live in Darwin, and more importantly, what are you going to do it fix to today?”
Mr Gunner’s fully reply:
“Madam Speaker, everyone should feel safe, wherever they are in the Northern Territory. Whether they are at home or work in Katherine, Tennant Creek, Yuendumu, Wadeye or Tiwi, we want everyone to feel safe.
“We have Territory‑wide plans and we have place‑based plans. In Katherine we have police alcohol liquor inspectors starting, which obviously we will not have in Darwin and Palmerston. We have learnt lessons from Katherine. The doorway service—which I have spoken about before—which is operating in Katherine is a model we want to put in place in Darwin and Palmerston. Right now, Katherine is, in many ways, an example.
“We have also seen in Katherine the execution of the new powers by the Police Commissioner that gives him the ability to close down a takeaway licence for 48 hours. We have seen that happen in Katherine over the last weekend. These are important new powers for the Police Commissioner. There was a warning provided to the proprietor in Katherine. The decision was made after that warning was provided by the Police Commissioner to institute that 48‑hour ban.
“There is a significant series of things we are doing, both across the Northern Territory and within places. For Katherine, that is some of the things we are doing. Obviously, in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek we are doing different things. We talk a lot about Tennant Creek in this Chamber about the new public housing safety officers and the new Alcohol and Other Drug nurses, the plan we are carrying out with BRADAAG that will free up public housing—a series of things we are doing in Tennant Creek.
“There are place‑based plans for Darwin and Palmerston, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs—working with local communities about what matters for them and in remote centres as well. There is a series of things we are doing Territory‑wide—Banned Drinker Register, risk‑based licensing—but there is also a series of things that we are doing in individual places.
“That is why I announced last week in Darwin, Palmerston and northern suburbs easier reporting. That will apply across the Northern Territory—it is a Territory‑wide measure—with more resources are available to respond and more services available after that response is provided. They are important reforms for Darwin, Palmerston and the northern suburbs. But the lessons we learnt from those have often come from other places.
“I thank Katherine for the advice they have provided us about the doorway service. We want everyone in Katherine to feel safe. Obviously, there is a series of things we are doing in Katherine in and around that. There is still more work to be done.
“We know there is a series of estimates we made in those early days, around that first 1000 days, to break this cycle. Territorians across the Northern Territory, for too long, have simply seen the same generational issues come through every generation. We have to work together to address that and we are doing that.”
Mr Gitsham’s attacker is described as a part Aboriginal male, late teens or early twenties, approximately six foot tall, athletic build with short dark hair, large ears and broad nose. He was wearing black shorts and a T-shirt with orange and yellow markings on the front and dark sleeves.
It is believed the man was last seen in the vicinity of Holtze Crescent and Fomin Drive, in Katherine East.
“Police are seeking assistance from anybody who was in Katherine East at the time and may have seen the male,” the NT Police spokeswoman said.
Anybody with information is requested to contact police on 131444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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