Kumanjayi Walker Deserves Justice

Words by Habibah Jaghoori

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article may contain/contains images, names and voices of people who have died.

Kumanjayi Walker’s cousin Samara Fernandez-Brown. Photo by Michael Franchi ABC News.

‘It is extremely important to me and to family and community to be present throughout the coronial inquest just so we have an understanding of everything that led up to the events of Kumanjayi’s death so that we as a family and community feel empowered in this process and have a greater understanding of what we can demand improves for the sake of our youth so it will never happen again to anybody else’s family the same way it has happened to ours’ — Samara Fernandez-Brown

Today, September 5th marks the beginning of the coronial inquest for Kumanjayi Walker, a Warlpiri man killed by Constable Zachary Rofle who shot him three times in the small town of Yuendumu, a remote community northwest of Alice Springs.

This inquest will determine the complete reality as to how Kumanjayi was killed so his family and community can gain a full understanding of the events and allow the coroner to speak to more people in Kumanjayi’s life that can provide a bigger picture into who he was and to establish something that will prevent such a murder from taking place again.

This entire procedure is set to take place over a three-month course.

The coroner for this inquest will take into account how Kumanjayi died, the involvement of police in his death, what changes need to be made with police involvement including the right to carry arms, the leave of Yuendumu’s health clinic staff, access to support in Yuemdumu for young people and the changes the community want to be implemented following the tragic murder of Walker.

Photo of Kumanjayi Walker supplied by his family to The Guardian.

Kumanjayi Walker was killed on November 9th 2019, and yet the journey for his family and community to this coronial inquest three years later is symbolic of Australia’s relationship with First Nations people. It’s one of neglect, barriers and of a serious divide between the Indigenous community and White Australia.

Zachary Rofle was found not guilty on the 11th of March this year and was further acquitted for alternative charges of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act that caused death. This unanimous vote from an all-white jury was delivered under a seven-hour trial.

Days after the trial, Rofle’s text messages to an army friend were leaked.

Alice Springs sucks ha ha. The good thing is it’s like the Wild West and f*** all the rules in the job really … but it’s a shit hole.

….. it’s a sweet gig, just get to do cowboy stuff with no rules.

These were the text messages Walker’s family attempted to admit into court but was dismissed as inadmissible.

The #JusticeforWalker protests that took place around Australia were a fight back against police brutality, systemic racism and a reminder that sovereignty was never ceded.

Australia has a brutal history of oppressing the country’s Indigenous and First Nations people. The result of such trauma not only becomes generational but creates a widening gap. The socio-economic disadvantages and health inequality of Indigenous and First Nations people are the symptoms of a morally bankrupt system.

State oppression of Indigenous and First Nation people is not just a matter of the past, however. State violence continues to descend on these communities.

There has been a total of 517 black deaths in custody since the Royal Commission, 82 in the year 20–21 alone.

In July of this year, the WA Labor government ordered 17 incarcerated Indigenous youth from the Banksia Hill Youth detention centre to be transferred to an adult maximum-security prison. Following this announcement one of the children had to be transferred to the hospital for self-harm.

The problems of police, courts and prisons are institutional. A new system built on racial, climate and economic justice must be formed.

Kumanjayi Walker, his family and his community deserve justice and solidarity.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Grace Atta, Jenny Jung & Chanel Trezise. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com