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Article

“Karrinjarla muwajarri—we call for ceasefire.”

On 9 November 2019, Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker was shot three times dead by police officer Zachary Rolfe. He was only nineteen.

Content warnings: Police brutality, deaths in custody, genocide, racism.

 

 

On 9 November 2019, Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker was shot three times dead by police officer Zachary Rolfe. He was only nineteen.

In March 2022, an all-white jury in a territory that is a third Indigenous decided that Rolfe is to be found ‘not guilty’ of all charges.

First count murder: not guilty.

Second count manslaughter: not guilty.

Third count violent act causing death: not guilty.

Until now, the Warlpiri people publically remained quiet on aspects of racism under suppression orders as to not compromise the conduct of this trial. But more than two years later, these efforts appear in vain as desperate hopes of justice are violently wrenched from his community.

Walker’s death is a unique grief for the Warlpiri people, and yet finds itself another mark of a violent judicial stain in this country, built on the deaths of our own.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the death tally reaches over five hundred, with no conviction of murder in over thirty years. Five hundred is more than a grim statistic, each individual name is an entire family and community in mourning for those loved ones taken unfairly—children, mothers, fathers. Shot dead in the streets, dying alone in a jail cell, our people scream out for justice with no meaningful response to be heard.

Almost every week, it seems I open the news to another one of us dead, and I brace myself. I know deep in my heart that there will come a day in which that name in black-and-white print will be one that I know intimately—maybe an aunty, or an uncle, or a cousin. If I had been old enough to remember, this would have already come to pass. This is a familiar tale to almost every Indigenous person I know, and never with a fair outcome. Every individual life ended abruptly to this brutality is an unjust tragedy, a universal grief in our communities, and our hearts break over and over again.

When the discrepancy between judicial treatment of white suspects and those Indigenous is so extensive, it is reductive, and frankly offensive, to believe that there is no racism involved in any aspect of this trial. White youth will be labelled as ‘troubled’ by mainstream media in the reporting of crime, and Indigenous youth as ‘violent offenders’. Kumanjayi Walker finds himself post-mortem branded as a violent criminal, deserving of a gruesome, lonely death. We are punished for the manifestation of intergenerational trauma in the deaths of our children, and we are told that this is fair and just.

There is nothing fair and just in this campaign of destruction.

“Karrinjarla muwajarri,” Warlpiri elders call for ceasefire.

The colonial project of extermination continues 234 years strong, and apartheid remains alive and well in this stolen country. Calls for reconciliation ring hollow when we still make up 30% of the incarceration population at barely over 3% of the country, and they lock up our kids for stealing chocolate bars. The white justice system is weaponised against us, as it always has been, and genocide now takes a more palatable form to white Australia—with increased bureaucracy and red tape to justify a warped sense of ‘due process’.

There is no justice, and there is no peace, when our children are still dying at the hands of the state. How can we heal from a history of massacre, when that history is as much the present? We mourn for Kumanjayi Walker, and we mourn for all those that have been lost, and will be lost. When will the killing end?

We stand alongside the Warlpiri people, and we too call for ceasefire.

 

Lauren Scott is an Arabana and Southern Aranda person.

Image from @justiceforwalker_. For more resources and information, please visit their page.

 
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