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Inquest evidence traumatic for victim's family

Rudi Maxwell -

Listening to the evidence of former Northern Territory Police constable Zachary Rolfe has been devastating and traumatic for the family of Warlpiri teenager Kumanjayi Walker.

Mr Rolfe shot and killed Mr Walker, 19, while on duty at Yuendumu in November 2019 and is fronting an inquest into his death at Alice Springs.

Walker family spokeswoman Samara Fernandez-Brown told AAP it was a relief to get to this point and have Mr Rolfe answering questions, after the ex-officer had tried to avoid fronting the coroner.

"But at the same time, it is very, very hard to listen to him and very, very hard to see him and, for family, it's so traumatic," she said.

Mr Rolfe's evidence detailed examples of bigotry in the NT Police, including an annual racist mock award ceremony by an elite unit, and his previous and separate use of force - including on a child - before he shot Mr Walker.

"We know that a racist culture exists ... but to hear the evidence around that particular ceremony and having somebody dress up and having that particular award, making a mockery of Aboriginal culture, that's something that I wouldn't have been able to imagine," Ms Fernandez-Brown said.

"We're showing up for Kumanjayi but also for our other young men and older men and women who are in the incarceration system, and facing these kinds of injustices by police.

"It means a lot for us to be here and it means that we are hopeful towards sort of positive change, but we're not going to feel like we're healing until we see those changes coming into practice."

Ms Fernandez-Brown said she hoped there would be a full and proper investigation into the racist culture that Mr Rolfe had testified about - and that authorities would make NT police officers accountable for their behaviour.

"At the moment, NT police are not doing anything to actually gain people's trust," she said.

"And if I'm still hearing about excessive use of force, and if I'm still hearing that young people are scared of the police in Yuendumu, then nothing's changed in the years that we've been fighting."

Mr Rolfe is due to take the stand again on Tuesday.

He was found not guilty of murdering Mr Walker following a high-profile, five-week trial in 2022.

He was sacked by the Northern Territory Police Force in 2023, in a move he planned to appeal.

Rudi Maxwell - AAP


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