The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO, has joined calls for an end to police officers carrying guns in communities, following the acquittal last week of police officer Zachary Rolfe, who shot and killed 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker during an attempted arrest in November 2019.
June Oscar’s statement, reproduced below, follows a powerful call by senior Warlpiri man Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves for guns to be banned from remote communities, and for a ceasefire. “The police must put down their weapons,” he said.
Statement: Commissioner backs calls for no more guns in communities
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO, has joined calls for no more guns to be carried by police officers in communities, and has extended her heart and thoughts to the family of Kumanjayi Walker, the Yuendumu community and Warlpiri people at this very difficult time.
Commissioner Oscar said: “Walker’s family have been brave, courageous, and determined to bring the trial to public attention during this painful period. And now they continue to call for urgent reforms. I stand with them in their ongoing pursuit of justice for all First Nations peoples.”
Commissioner Oscar backed the family’s calls for no more guns to be carried by police in communities. She also called for elders and Indigenous liaison officers to hold decision-making positions in policing matters, and for substantial investments in community wrap-around supports and trauma-informed responses.
There have been more than 500 Indigenous deaths in custody since the Royal Commission, and several recent police shootings of First Nations people underline the need for immediate action.
In addition to the deaths of Kumanjayi Walker and Joyce Clarke, a Yamatji woman who was shot by police, a young Indigenous man is currently in a critical condition after being shot six times by a police officer near Darwin.
Commissioner Oscar said: “Mass incarceration and the deaths of First Nations people when in contact with the justice system must end.
“For 30 years we have urged Australian governments to implement all recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. We have long held the solutions, and countless inquires and reports have given us the way forward. But time and again we fail to effectively implement them, and as a result we continue to see First Nations men, women and children dying in our so-called justice system. Enough is enough.
“The mass incarceration and over policing of First Nations people is driven by systemic and structural problems within the justice system and beyond it. Until this changes – until we see significant systemic shifts and investment in the security and health of our communities – the grave injustice of Indigenous deaths will continue,” Commissioner Oscar said.
The sadness of Kumanjayi Walker’s family is a familiar sorrow for Aboriginal people: By Bridget Brennan
‘Enough is enough’: Kumanjayi Walker family’s wait for justice”: By Sarah Collard and Karen Michelmore
All-white juries are a symptom of structural racism: By Dr Hannah McGlade
How much longer can the law justify the killing of Aboriginal people? By Teela Reid
See Croakey’s archive of stories on police and public health.
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