The warnings were clear.
The warnings were consistent.
Yet for months and months, scenes reminiscent of a failed state have played out in an Australian country town.
In the face of disorder and bloodshed the cries for help from local leaders in Alice Springs have been loud.
What those voices have told us has been harrowing, horrific and confronting.
“The woman locked herself in the toilet to try to get away from the perpetrator. He then poured petrol under the door and set it on fire, she was immolated in the toilet.”
People have had their heads hit against door frames and with rocks.
Women and children have been beaten by iron bars and poles; attacked with axes and machetes; molested, raped and murdered.
The Alice Springs Hospital has confirmed hospital presentations have escalated and the NT Police have seen the rate of assaults spike by 40 per cent and domestic violence-related assaults by 50 per cent.
Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson has raised the plight of his town’s children with hundreds on the streets every single night.
The carnage has been clear.
The toll immeasurable.
While millions of Australians have slept safely in their beds at night, the women and children of Alice Springs have faced a different kind of darkness.
Sadly, in the face of this escalating national tragedy, state and federal leaders have been more focused on ideology than action.
The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles have ignored the pleas for urgent action.
Neither leader wanted to wear the taint of intervention – even when asked by their own side.
In July last year, some eight months ago, Labor’s Federal Member for the Northern Territory seat of Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour, likened the removal of grog bans to “pulling forces out of Afghanistan”.
“When a government puts a protective regime of that kind in place, and leaves it in place for that long, you can’t just suddenly pull the pin on it without any protection, sanctuary or plan for the vulnerable women and children whom the original measure was supposed to protect. It’s like pulling your forces out of Afghanistan but leaving your local workers and their dependants in harm’s way on the ground without an escape plan.”
That was a Labor MP eight months ago.
Anthony Albanese sat in the chamber and listened to that contribution.
Clearly, he was more focused on his Jobs Summit slated for days later, a summit he would use to invent a mandate for radical industrial relations changes he did not take to the election.
With the Labor Federal Government focused on the interests of its union mates instead of the plight of women and children in Alice, it fell to a Labor government in Darwin to step up and show some leadership.
Instead of taking strong action, Natasha Fyles failed.
She passed laws that ensured communities across the Northern Territory would have access to grog.
Her office briefed out this action brought to an end the “last living remnants of the Intervention”, ending the “race-based policy targeting Aboriginal Territorians”.
The fuse was lit.
The consequences of this failure of public policy from two Labor Governments are clear.
Irreversible trauma wrought upon a community that will echo for a generation, perhaps even further.
Shamed into visiting Alice by local leaders, Anthony Albanese’s response has been pathetic.
He spent just four hours on the ground in Alice and did not stay to see the violence at night.
That was two hours less than he spent with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Lindsay Fox for a barbecue at the billionaire’s mansion, the same event he took a joy ride on a helicopter to get to.
Incredibly the media spinners in the Prime Minister’s office have been briefing out that the Prime Minister’s lack of action was because the Parliament could not sit between Labor forming government in May and the laws lapsing in July.
To lay the blame of inaction in Alice Springs on parliamentary scheduling is appalling.
Anthony Albanese was able to quickly convene an unscheduled Parliamentary sitting day, just last month, to pass new laws that will make the energy crisis in this country worse.
For far too long the Prime Minister said leading on this issue was not his job, it was a matter for the NT Police.
For someone who said he would always take responsibility, this failure of leadership is unforgivable.