Content warning: This article contains reference to sexual assault. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

 

An Indigenous man accused of falsely representing himself as a Noongar Elder has been found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault after a nine-day trial in a Western Australian court.

Joseph Luke Williams, 58, formerly operated Denmark’s award-winning Poornarti Aboriginal Tours, representing himself to victims as able to heal trauma and improve fertility.

Charged with 12 counts of sexual penetration without consent and two counts of indecent assault at Albany District Court in WA’s South West, Williams maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

The jury acquitted Williams of one count of sexual penetration without consent and one count of indecent assault.

During the trial the court heard Williams targeted vulnerable women, told victims he could treat infertility and that his semen had magical powers that could deter stalkers.

Six victims testified at the trial with one victim, a 39-year-old woman, telling the court Williams convinced her to let him sexually penetrate her as “birthing preparation” after her struggle to fall pregnant.

The prosecution argued Williams groomed his victims, creating a relationship through ‘cultural teachings’ centred on bush medicine, which soon turned sexual. His victims were aged 18-34.

Williams’ self-proclaimed Elder status was also disputed by three female Noongar Elders from the region who condemned the 58-year-old’s actions, with one Elder labelling them “disgusting”.

The Elders also told the court men would not touch women during traditional ceremonies due to the clear cultural protocols and separations between men’s business and women’s business.

After the verdicts were handed down on Monday, Judge Christopher Peter Stevenson said there was a “pattern of behaviour in Mr Williams with the similarities of the allegations”.

“Mr Williams was tapping into the vulnerabilities they shared with him,” Judge Stephenson told the court.

The 58-year-old has been remanded in custody and is set to return to court for sentencing on May 3.

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By Hannah Cross