Gang violence has turned the remote Aboriginal community of Wadeye, Australia into a war zone
Scores of Aborigines have fled their homes and are living in squalid refugee-like camps as two rival gangs, the Evil Warriors and the Judas Priests, fight for control of the Northern Territory's largest black town.
Wadeye's chief executive, Terry Bullemor, said yesterday the local council was considering evacuating about 300 people to Darwin and elders called on politicians to send in the army to help the town's five full-time police officers keep the peace.
However, the only road to the town remains blocked by floods.
Even the gang leaders have voiced concern. "Somebody's going to die," said Gregory Narndu, 32, a leader of the Evil Warriors. "What can we do? That other mob attacks us with rocks, boulders, spears and anything else they can get hold of."
Wadeye, formerly the Catholic mission of Port Keats, has been plagued by warring gangs for years but three months ago the violence started to increase, reaching a crisis point last week.
The rioters have caused more than $450,000 worth of damage to houses and other property.
"Our cry is for help," said town elder Theodora Narndu, Mr Narndu's mother. "Seeing what's happening, my tears are never dry. I hear the screams at night … terrified women and children … It has never been like this before. Our kids are not safe."
She blamed the problem on the lack of police and a lack of resources. "When there's trouble around here and I call the police to come and protect my mob they never come," she said. "Where are the resources that the politicians kept promising us?"
Almost half of Wadeye's 2500 people are under 15 and cannot speak English. Life expectancy is 20 years less than that of non-indigenous Australians and an acute housing shortage - set to worsen over the next 20 years - means an average of 20 people to a house. The camps, created in response to the recent bouts of violence, lend an air of Third World poverty to the town.
Wadeye's only doctor, Patrick Rebgetz, said the violence had put the town's 1300 children at risk and accused the territory's Health Department of trying to gag him. "Australia should be ashamed at what's happening in remote indigenous com-munities," Dr Rebgetz said.
"We as Australians need to stand up with these people to reclaim their town from the groups that are trying to destroy it." He said the Health Department had told him not to speak about a six year-old rape victim.
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