Kumanjayi Walker's family are a step closer to the truth behind his death, after Coroner Elisabeth Armitage dismissed a request from former Constable Zachary Rolfe to remove herself from the inquest.
Rolfe had made an application for the Coroner to recuse herself based on perceived bias against him, just weeks before he was due to give evidence. This follows previous unsuccessful attempts by Rolfe to avoid giving evidence at the inquest into the police-shooting death.
On 9 November 2019, Warlpiri and Luritja teenager Kumanjayi Walker was killed after Rolfe shot him three times at close range in his home community of Yuendumu. Rolfe was charged with murder after the shooting but acquitted at trial.
The inquest commenced in September 2022 and the Coroner has so far heard hundreds of hours of evidence from Kumanjayi Walker's family, community members, Aboriginal leaders and police officers.
The Coroner has also watched hours of video evidence and read thousands of pages of witness statements. Rolfe and his former colleague Sergeant Lee Bauwens are the last two scheduled witnesses.
Kumanjayi Walker's cousin Samara Fernandez-Brown said on Thursday that "although the constant disruptions in our journey for justice have been difficult and frustrating, we are hopeful that this decision will mean that Zachary Rolfe finally faces the inquest".
"To learn the truth about our loved one's death and for change to come, Rolfe must answer for his actions. There is no moving forward without full truth and accountability," she said.
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency acting Principal Legal Officer, Jared Sharpe, said NAAJA stands "with the Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory and more specifically with the family and community of Kumanjayi Walker as they fight for long overdue justice and accountability".
"They deserve to know the full truth about how and why their loved one died. It is time for Rolfe to take the stand in this inquest and provides answers on his actions," he said.
NAAJA, with support from the Human Rights Law Centre, have intervened in the coronial inquest to highlight systemic injustices experienced by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. They are calling for an end to discriminatory policing and excessive use of force by police; independent and robust police accountability mechanisms; and proper resourcing for self-determined solutions including community-led alternatives to police.
The Coroner's decision is available online.