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Inquest into death of Kumanjayi Walker to hear evidence from Aboriginal experts on self-determined justice solutions

Giovanni Torre -

The coronial inquest into death of Kumanjayi Walker, the Yuendumu teenager shot multiple times and killed by NT police officer Zachary Rolfe, will next week hear evidence from Aboriginal experts on community-led solutions to prevent future deaths in custody of Aboriginal people.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), with support from the Human Rights Law Centre, work to highlight systemic injustices experienced by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, and call for an end to discriminatory policing and excessive use of force by police; independent and robust police accountability mechanisms; and proper resourcing and support for self-determined justice solutions, community-led alternatives to police and community-controlled health services.

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency acting chief executive Dr John Paterson said that as the coronial inquest recommences next week, "the family and community of Kumanjayi Walker lead with tremendous strength".

"They continue to participate in this demanding process, at great personal cost to themselves and their families. At a time when we are set to hear evidence from Aboriginal experts and community members calling for self-determined justice solutions, we stand behind the family and the Yuendumu community in their calls for answers, accountability and justice for Kumanjayi Walker," he said.

"Aboriginal communities and organisations have always had the answers. The families and community have shown dignity and leadership throughout this ordeal – and continue to do so. They must be listened to, and governments must act on community calls for change.

"Hundreds of our people have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody over 30 years ago. Yet governments continue to sit on their hands and fail to act. For as long as governments allow police to act with racism and impunity, deaths in custody will continue."

Human Rights Lawyer Centre acting managing lawyer Amala Ramarathinam paid tribute to Mr Walker's family's determination.

"While this inquest has been a long and drawn out process, Kumanjayi Walker's loved ones and community continue to attend and participate at every step of the way," she said.

"The family and community have led with dignity and strength throughout, as they gave evidence, welcomed the Coroner and all parties into their community and offered meaningful self-determined solutions, so that what happened to their loved one never happens to anyone else.

"We stand behind Kumanjayi's loved ones, the Yuendumu community and NAAJA in their calls for truth and accountability through the coronial process. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to die in custody until families, communities and experts are listened to."

From 27 February the coronial inquest will hear evidence from Aboriginal elders and leaders regarding the work of law and justice groups and community-run initiatives like Night Patrol, which use cultural authority, traditional knowledge and culturally-appropriate methods of dispute resolution to empower community members; and community policing methods and working respectfully with Aboriginal people and cultural authorities in Aboriginal communities.

NAAJA has been given special leave to appear in the inquest to represent the interests of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and highlight systemic injustices that contribute to the ongoing deaths of Aboriginal people in police custody.  

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