NT Police Shootings Must Stop

NT Police Shootings Must Stop

SEARCH Foundation Statement

The SEARCH Foundation expresses its strong support for the Yuendemu community in its demand that NT Police no longer carry guns in Aboriginal communities, following the not guilty verdict in the trial of the NT police officer who shot and killed community member Kumanjayi Walker.

The Foundation further demands an immediate full and independent inquiry into this month’s police shooting of a 19 year old Indigenous man in Darwin, who remains in hospital in a critical condition.

No one should be under the illusion that these two events are unrelated. Both are symptoms of the deep underlying structural racism in Australian society, which infects the justice system just as it does all our major institutions. 

We call on anti-racist activists and organisations across Australia to join us in expressing our solidarity with the families and communities of these young men and demanding immediate action to end the structural racism in the justice system and the media which these events demonstrate.

The police officer who killed Kumanjayi Walker in 2019 was acquitted by a jury on which no First Nations person sat, in a Darwin court 1500 kilometres from his homeland. Family and community members who travelled there spent 5 weeks listening to the case, but were not given a chance to be heard. As community elder Warren Japanangka Williams said, “We want Yapa people on jury who can hear. They need to see it through our eyes.” 

In both cases, the police and their union have been quick to use the media to position the victims of these shootings as the ones at fault. The NT Country Liberal Party opposition, in lock step with the NT Police Association, has gone so far as to demand in inquiry into why the police officer who shot and killed Walker was even charged, hypocritically claiming the issue was ‘politicised.’ In this month’s shooting in Darwin, the police version of events describing the man as dangerous are being repeated daily in the media, before any inquiry has been held.

These blatant attempts to pretend that the victims of racial injustice are the problem demands our response. This is not a First Nations issue or a Northern Territory issue, it is a national issue. Moreover, it is an issue which requires leadership and action by the national government, in a genuine and equal partnership with First Nations communities and their organisations. The time is well overdue for First Nations peoples to have a guaranteed Voice, not just in relation to the justice system but in every aspect of their lives.

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