Operator won’t return to remote community without police escort after attack

A transport company delivering essential supplies to a remote community in the Northern Territory has refused to return without a police escort, after one of its drivers was allegedly attacked by a group of youths.  

Stanes Transport, based in Alice Springs, has been freighting food, medical, disability and teaching supplies to the town of Yuendumu for the past 15 years.  

Co-owner Kylie Stanes told Big Rigs that there have been a few incidents in the area over the years, but what happened on Friday was a frightening escalation.  

“We’ve had the truck broken into and one of our driver’s wallets stolen in the past,” she said.  

“And a couple of kids throwing rocks.  

“But this time, it was two full carloads of young people attacking our driver.” 

Stanes Transport has six prime movers and a team of eight drivers. Image: Stanes Transport

She claims that the attack was planned in advance, with the youths throwing rocks and sticks and stealing supplies from the pallets.  

“They had someone sitting as a lookout,” she added.  

“This was planned, it was targeted, and it was an escalation.”  

Stanes said her driver made four triple-0 calls during the incident, all of them going unanswered.  

“From a very young age, you’re taught to ring triple-0 if you need help,” she said.  

“There’s no point if you’re out bush, apparently!” 

Without a police escort, she and her husband Mark will not be sending any more drivers back to Yuendumu.  

“I haven’t been sending my female drivers out there for a long time, but now I’m like – it just can’t happen. I’m not sending any drivers at all without police. 

“My drivers have a right to feel safe when they are going about their job. 

“I want my drivers and the greater community to know how much we value what they do, and their safety is number one.” 

Stanes claimed that the company used to have a strong relationship with local police, but that ended after an officer reshuffle last year. 

“We’ve had amazing help from police in the past but that has changed,” she continued.  

“That was based on one specific person, where if the police couldn’t make it when we were unloading, we had a mobile number for him if anything happened.  

“Now when my guys try to ring the local police directly, they don’t get an answer.”  

She acknowledges that police in remote areas are under-resourced, but she is frustrated by their lack of action.  

“The Minister for Police was on the radio this morning and he indicated that this was a ‘community issue’ not a police issue.  

“I find that completely ridiculous.  

“I understand that we’ve got issues popping off everywhere in the Northern Territory. 

“But I’ve got to fight the good fight for my drivers, because what happened on Friday is simply not OK.”  

Stanes said she is speaking out about this issue partly to highlight the challenges that truck drivers face, and why they deserve respect. 

“I think people have a very limited understanding of what a team of drivers like ours do every day,” she says.  

“They drive the biggest legal vehicle possible to the harshest, most remote places in Australia.  

“My guys are on the front line, and they deserve respect.  

“If they can’t do their job safely, then Australia stops turning.”  

Stanes Transport previously had rocks thrown at their truck in December.

After the incident on Friday, Stanes managed to secure a police escort for yesterday afternoon and a driver was able to deliver the freight that had been delayed by the attack.  

She is hoping that weekly police escorts can be arranged going forward, so the Yuendumu community can get the supplies they need.  

She has reached out to Government representatives for help, but has so far been underwhelmed by their response.

“We’ve been contacted by the Department of Chief Minister’s Office for a meeting,” she said.  

“But I haven’t actually heard from a single minister or their office, or the Police Minister.”  

Gwoja MLA Chansey Paech told NT News that the alleged incident was “completely unacceptable” and police were carrying out an investigation.  

“Further, our local representative from the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet who lives in the community, along with local leadership are working on a range of solutions to address the situation,” he said. 

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