NT social unrest cost grows as homes hit

·2-min read

Feuding Indigenous clans have damaged almost half of a remote Northern Territory Indigenous community's social housing as month's of violent conflict continues.

The territory government reports that 125 of Wadeye's 288 properties need repairs after sustaining damage during the social unrest in recent weeks.

All told, 545 residents have been forced from their homes since tensions escalated in April after a man was reportedly speared in the head and died.

Dozens of others have been injured in the community, 400 kilometres southwest of Darwin, where police on Wednesday raised concerns over the use of crossbows during some clashes.

Many of those who fled returned to their homelands in the bush where some are struggling to get enough food and supplies, the government reports.

Others have travelled to Darwin, where Wadeye's social unrest spilled onto the streets on Saturday as two families faced off armed with sticks and an axe.

"My heart really goes out to that community," Chief Minister Natasha Fyles told reporters on Thursday.

"They are going through a very difficult time. I can absolutely assure the residents that we are working around that community's very complex needs presently."

Historic tensions between clans is understood to have caused the unrest in Wadeye, which was established as a Catholic mission in 1935 and formerly known as Port Keats.

It is one of the largest Aboriginal communities in the NT, and home to about 3000 people from 22 clans and seven language groups.

It is also situated in one of the most disadvantaged regions in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A 2019 survey found 57 out of 400 homes in Wadeye were seriously overcrowded, some with more than 20 occupants.

The government estimates the cost to taxpayers to repair the damaged homes is likely to be in excess of $5 million.

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