A nationwide day of protest was held on 18 June calling for an end to police guns in remote Indigenous communities. It followed the acquittal of police officer Zachary Rolfe in March, who shot and killed Kumanjayi Walker in the NT community of Yuendumu.
Valerie Napaljarri Martin, a senior Warlpiri woman from Yuendumu, told the rally in Alice Springs that, “they treat us with no respect at all, shooting our kids, coming into our homes and using guns on our kids.
“We’re still in sorrow in Yuendumu… It can happen in any other community as well to other young people. We can’t be silent anymore, enough is enough.”
The protests were held in support of a series of demands from Yuendumu, issued in a statement “Karrinjarla Muwajarri—Ceasefire”, calling on the government to defund the police, boost spending on housing and services, and bring back the community control removed under the Intervention.
They also marked 15 years since the Northern Territory Intervention began, which suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and gave the police extra powers against First Nations communities.
Barbara Shaw, from the Intervention Rollback Action Group, said at the Alice Springs rally that, “Yuendumu was the largest community in Central Australia that stood up to the Intervention, especially the compulsory land acquisitions, and the racist laws that came into our communities.”
There were also rallies held in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, and the NT community of Borroloola.
Audrey Napanangka, a grandmother of Kumanyaji Walker, spoke at the Sydney rally in Warlpiri to “thank everyone for being here to support the Warlpiri nation of Yuendumu and her family”.
The rally also heard from other deaths in custody families. Darlene Mason, daughter of Mark Mason Snr, an Indigenous man who was shot dead by police in NSW 11 years ago, said that, “we must continue fighting this failed system to get justice for our loved ones”.
Lizzie Jarrett stood alongside and spoke for Vicky Fernando, the partner of Stanley Russell, a First Nations man shot and killed by police in Sydney in November. Jarrett said, “they will not be forgotten, we will not be silent”, and called on the government to, “take away their guns, take away their funding, give us back our self-determination, our survival and livelihood, and protect our children”.
Elders and community members from Yuendumu are planning to press their demands when a coronial inquiry is held into Kumanjayi Walker’s killing in September.
By Anja Burrill