Walpiri elder from Yuendumu, Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves, issued this statement after the acquittal of NT police officer Zachary Rolfe today over the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker
Karrinjarla muwa-jarri. I open this statement with my language, Warlpiri, from the central western desert. This powerful phrase is used when someone breaks the law and betrays what is sacred. It means that they must be held accountable for what they have done that cannot be reversed and that those actions must never never happen again. It is like putting out a dangerous fire that needs to be extinguished so it never burns again. This is how we feel about the police shooting our yapa, our First Nations people. This is how we feel about the police killing our young fella, Kumanjayi Walker. Karrinjarla muwa-jarri.
We want a ceasefire. No more guns in our communities. It must never happen again. The police must put down their weapons. We have been saying this since the beginning. We cannot walk around in fear in our own homes.
We have been in the court for five weeks now. Our people have been keeping quiet because of the court process but now it is time for us to speak up and tell our junga, our truth. We have been waiting too long for justice. We need to tell our side of this story.
The only reason Rolfe was charged with murder was because our people stood up strong and demanded justice. Our community is powerful. We come from Warrmala, warrior ancestors, that roamed our lands since time immemorial. They looked after the land and they looked after each other and they kept our yapa laws strong. We are Warrmala today and we hold those knowledges.
We protested when Kumanjayi’s life was stolen by Rolfe. We were supported by yapa all over the NT and Australia, in remote communities and all the major cities. What did thousands of protesters say? Black Lives Matter. In our language, we say Yapakurlangu Warnkaru Matters.
There have been over 500 yapa deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and still no justice. We see what is happening with Black people being killed by the police all over the world and we are part of a global fight for change. We see Black Lives Matter as a kurdiji, a shield, it holds us.
I want to say a few things about the court case. There is no justification for ANY of the shots fired against our young fella. Lawa, none! The police should have never been in that house, they should have never been holding military guns. Lawa, no! The court system is guilty of racism against yapa every day. So many of our people, including children as young as ten years old, are locked up. How can we expect anything from a racist court?
Rolfe was on bail for over two years. Many of our people are in jail for small things, like not paying fines. Justice for Walker means that Rolfe must be accountable, he must be charged and locked up for this shooting.
But this is not enough. This country is built on the murder of our people. Since invasion, our people have been killed, our land has been stolen and our rights have been taken away. In 1928, hundreds of our people were massacred by a policeman from Alice Springs, George Murray. He was also a returned soldier from WW1. His trial was sent to Port Augusta and he was acquitted. Is history repeating itself?
Since the NT Intervention in 2007, the police have been getting more weapons, more power and more racist towards us. We are a proud people, strong in our language, culture and law. But the police and government rule over us and treat us as enemies on our own land.
We want our rights back to control what happens in our community and on our lands. Stop all the racist intervention laws we live under. Reinstate our local council and give us the resources we need to employ and serve our people. Respect Warlpiri law—the real law of our land.
Justice is not just about the murder trial for us. Justice means getting back yapa control of our community. Since the intervention, all the investment in Yuendumu has been against the community. They have built a big police station to terrorise and control us. Instead of funding more police, redirect that money to yapa community services like our night patrol.
We know what we need! No more guns. We want to assess any police coming into our community. They must listen to our Elders, yapa liaisons and community. Police must respect our Warlpiri law and if they don’t we must have the power to evict them.
We want our councils and permit system back. We want more and better housing for our families and decent jobs for our youth. Holding Rolfe accountable and giving control back to our people over our own lives, this is what Justice for Walker looks like.