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An Indigenous Family Have Been Compensated After Unlawful Strip-Searches Eight Years Ago

"I stripped naked and was made to squat in front of my kids."

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A judge has found that a raid carried out by NSW police on an Aboriginal family eight years ago was unlawful and highly distressing to minors who witnessed the raid, and that those involved were subjected to excessive and traumatic strip-searches.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

Today at Sydney district court, Judge Sharron Norton awarded 10 members of the Edwards family from Bourke, Western NSW, over $370,000 in compensation for a police raid that took place in July 2008.

The judge found that the police had unlawfully obtained a warrant to search the premises because they believed one of the family members was a drug dealer and that they would find drug paraphernalia.

There were 10 people in the house at the time, including several minors.

Norton said the warrants were invalid and that strip-searches were carried out unlawfully. Thirteen officers raided the house and eight people in the house were searched, but no arrests were made and no illicit substances were found.

The plaintiffs were awarded compensation under several categories, including detention, battery, aggravated damages, and trespass on land.

The house the police raided was that of 81-year-old Aboriginal elder Marjorie Rose. She had lived there for 50 years – most of that time with her now deceased husband – but the incident scared her so much that she moved away.

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

"The raid happened early in the morning and the door was broken down by a big hammer," Rose recalled. "They wanted to search the kids and I remember arguing with them about that. They took the girls into a room without supervision. I couldn't go to the toilet, they wouldn't let me.

"It was scary, too scary for me. I moved to Dubbo."

On Wednesday, Judge Norton described the behaviour Rose endured that morning.:

"Mrs Rose was asked to take her clothes off and she said, 'with the camera.. why don't you just bring the [sniffer] dog?'"

Marjorie was made to remove her jumper and was left standing in a petticoat. The officers then felt around inside her bra and underpants.

"During the course of the search Mrs Rose's breasts were exposed and she appeared very uncomfortable, confused, and distraught," Norton said regarding the DVD footage of the search.

"It was good to hear the judgment and receive a win after eight years," Rose's daughter Dianne Edwards said. "I think this sends a message to the police that there are fighters out there for our rights and justice does prevail in the long run."

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

Edwards, now 57, was visiting her mother from Sydney when the raid took place.

Edwards was forcibly strip-searched while being filmed. She was wearing a sanitary pad at the time and was deeply humiliated; she was then forced to squat and was not allowed to go to the toilet for over four hours.

"She was reluctant to be searched because she was not sure of what was going to happen but said that 'I just obeyed the rules, sort of like a dog with his master. So I just thought, I better obey because they're wearing guns,'" Norton noted in her findings.

Edwards hopes the victory will empower other Indigenous people to report unlawful police harassment.

"A lot of our [Indigenous] people don't know how to go ahead with their complaints, they don't know the processes and procedures of the court, neither do they know where to seek legal assistance in relation to strip-searches," she said.

"I feel a lot of hate for the NSW police now and especially in Bourke," Tyrone Kelly told BuzzFeed News. "I feel like since this happened I am always being harassed because of my family name."

Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed

Kelly was 16 years old when the raid took place. He was home from boarding school for school holidays and sleeping on his grandmother's couch.

"I remember I was asleep on the lounge at my nan's house and the police came and banged on the door. Some of us were taken to a room and strip-searched.

"I was [strip-searched], and they filmed it. There should have been an adult with me, but there was just two police officers, I was pretty scared."

Kelly was forced by two police officers to strip naked except for a singlet in a room without heating, and then squat.

Norton wrote in her decision: "When Mr Kelly was told to take off his clothes, he said that he felt 'embarrassed, humiliated, felt like I was getting stood over. He also felt 'scared and humiliated'."

Kelly, now 23 years old, tells BuzzFeed News he had always wanted to be a police officer, but the raid created a deep distrust within him toward police.

"Finally now maybe I can move on and finally get a little bit of trust back for the police," he said, "because they are there to protect and serve."

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at

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