Disclaimer: I wrote this in anger days after the incident occurred and it is maybe a bit hash. I've chosen to publish it unchanged as a record of how I was feeling at the time.

On Saturday 9th November 2019, a 19 year old young man was shot and killed by Alice Springs police at Yuendumu. He had ignored his parole to attend the funeral of his Uncle and best friend who was taken too soon by cancer, a youth worker with a reputation for working well with troubled teens. The Yuendumu police had already negotiated his quiet surrender after the funeral, but against their advice the Alice Springs police instead chased him from the funeral. He fled from the funeral to his home, where they burst in and shot him in his bedroom. They dragged him out of the house by his feet bleeding and took him to the police station, which was then barricaded for hours against the indigenous police officer and concerned relatives who gathered outside. They refused to let anyone see him or provide any updates while he slowly bled to death alone in a cell.

Was this intentional? Did the Alice Springs police send a hit-squad to take him out? Had he perhaps experienced or witnessed some kind of abuse while in custody that someone was at risk of facing the consequences for? Did they rush to apprehend him at a time calculated to most likely cause an escalation that might lead to an "accidental" death? Did they intentionally hold him in the police station, denying him access to any sort of assistance or witness, to wait until he died?

Or was this incompetence? Did the Alice Springs police imagine themselves in an exciting cops-and-robbers story and rush to get a quick arrest? Did they get overly excited or panic and accidentally shoot him? Did they then barricade themselves in the police station, paralyzed in fear and confusion for hours trying to figure out how to get out of this mess, while he slowly died?

In 1987, after a disproportionate number of aboriginals killed by police, a Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody produced over 330 recommendations. Its recommendations are still valid today, but very few have been implemented.

In 2016, after a scandal over the torture of minors in detention, a Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory made more than 200 recommendations, including referring incidents to police and closure of the Don Dale Youth Detention Center. Few recommendations have been implemented, no charges were laid, and Don Dale continues to operate.

In 2018 an Australian Law Reform Commission report, Pathways to Justice-Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples produced 35 recommendations. Its recommendations have been met by silence.

Nearly every official or independent report produced related to Aboriginal people, including the 2003 Child abuse and neglect in Indigenous Australian communities, the 2007 Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, and 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart include mention and recommendations against excessive policing, prosecution, and incarceration that get ignored. Review after review after review of the increasingly harsh alternative policies, implemented against the recommendations, show they are not working. Every year, Aboriginal people continue to be killed by police.

Is this incompetence? Are white-fellas too stupid to follow their own good advice, and instead keep repeating and escalating the same expensive and ineffective mistakes that are killing more and more black-fellas?

Or is this intentional? Do the white-fellas in charge really just want to kill black-fellas?

Right now I'm struggling to see how this could be anything other than one of these two options.


The main Police officer in question has been charged with murder, the first time a Police officer has been charged before an inquiry. This is good; the Police need to the the message, loud and clear, that killing people is not OK, even if they are black-fellas. I suspect this was in response to the widespread protests around Australia about this incident (thank you everyone... these protests can actually trigger action).

There were initial reports that body-cam footage existed, but I'm betting this footage never gets seen. The NT Police have a history of video footage going missing, with camera's being conveniently off, or cell recordings being lost. I've heard anecdotally via contractors providing body-cam services that the NT police have their cameras turned off way more than other states.

My worry now is that this Police officer is going to be painted as "just one bad apple", and become the scapegoat for this incident. Although this officer does deserve to be punished, and must be held up as an example and warning to other cops, he is not really the problem, and I almost feel a bit sorry for him. He is a product of the Police system, and is far from the only bad cop they have. He just did what all his peers and supervisors attitudes and actions have always encouraged. Until this incident he had been held up as a model Policeman, with a record including heroic rescues of tourists. He just happens, like most other Police in the NT, to have been indoctrinated with a really bad attitude towards Aboriginals.

We cannot let the prosecution of this one Police officer be the end of it. The problem is the system, and until that is fixed more Aboriginals will die, and some (but history says not all) of those deaths may result in cops having their lives and careers destroyed for it.

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