Aboriginal People Fear For Lives Of Their Children After Killer Sentenced To Three Years In Jail
"The fact he was run over, because of the bike, does this not resonate with everyone across the country?"
Supporters of Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty, who died after being run down by a non-Indigenous man in a 4WD last year in Kalgoorlie, have gathered in major centres across the country calling for justice, not just for Doughty, but all black victims.
Shockwaves were felt across Aboriginal Australia on Friday when the man responsible for killing Doughty was found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury in the Supreme Court of WA.
He was instead convicted of the lesser charge of driving dangerously causing death, and sentenced to a maximum of three years, backdated to the time of his arrest. He will be eligible for parole in February, after serving 18 months.
The decision to charge him with manslaughter, rather than murder, angered the local Aboriginal community in Kalgoorlie last year, with community members staging an uprising outside the courthouse.
The scenes sparked intense media interest. Prior to the protests, the mainstream media had largely ignored the teenager's death.
The 56-year-old man, whose name has been suppressed by the court, was driving a white 4WD in August last year, when he spotted Doughty on a red motorbike in a reserve in the remote Western Australian city of Kalgoorlie.
The man was pursuing a stolen motorbike. There is no evidence Doughty stole the bike, or had knowledge it was stolen.
The man chased Doughty, catching up with him just as the dirt track they were both on curved to the left, according to The Guardian. He claimed Doughty "tried to get in front of me and he was already there".
Within moments Doughty had lost his life, dying instantly from massive head trauma and internal injuries, including a severed spinal cord.
Last Friday's verdict, which came after the jury had deliberated for more than six hours, was met with sorrow and anger by members of Doughty's family and supporters, who continued to call for justice in a protest outside the court.
But it had wider repercussions across Australia, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people voicing their anger and despair at the verdict, many viewing Doughty as their own son, brother, nephew or cousin.
For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is the latest in a long list of injustices that support the view that Australia treats black lives as dispensable.
Rallies were organised quickly over the weekend, with the first three held in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide today.
In Adelaide, about 100 people converged outside the state's Supreme Court, chanting "no peace, no justice". The protest later moved to the attorney-general's department, where members staged a sit-in.
Wiradjuri woman Latoya Rule, whose brother Wayne "Fella" Morrison died in a South Australian prison last year, told BuzzFeed News the man's acquittal for manslaughter had left her with a "sense of hopelessness".
"These issues have intergenerational aspects to them," Rule told BuzzFeed News.
"This isn't the first time a black person has been hit by a car and run over and nothing happened."
Rule said she found the media coverage of Aboriginal protestors, who were viewed as "violent", distressing.
"Most of the protests have actually been non-violent. These portrayals of Aboriginal protests as violent, or deaths in custody victims as violent...it's as if our lives don't matter."
She said that while some members of the public were blaming Aboriginal people, no-one was asking about the man's culpability, and how his own community justified Doughty's death.
"In some of the comments, they've been framing it as a community breakdown about parenting and raising Aboriginal children," Rule said.
"But not one person is asking, 'What about the man's parents?' No-one is questioning his family, or his community. No-one is asking his community about how they justify a person believing they are allowed to run someone over for apparently stealing a bike."
Rule said she fears for other Aboriginal children.
"I'm so worried to even have children. I'm so worried to even think of young people growing up in the next 20 or 30 years because of the way it is going, we are going to see more young people like Elijah.
"And they'll start being scared to walk the streets, to ride their bikes, to enjoy their childhood. And I don't want them to grow up in a society, the land of their ancestors, and feel scared."
Similar questions were posed outside the New South Wales' Supreme Court in Sydney, where over 200 people congregated to call for justice.
Aunty Jenny Munro told the gathering that Doughty's case was similar to that of TJ Hickey, who died after being chased by police through the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern in 2004.
She said the sentence was manifestly inadequate.
"[Doughty] will never walk, or talk, or breathe or sing or make babies for his mother to call grandchildren," Munro said.
"This man killed him. We are still getting conflicting information from the media as usual, they are still calling it a stolen bike. The fact he was run over, because of the bike, does this not resonate with everyone across the country?
"Is there not a deep feeling of unease in everybody’s heart? The whispering that becomes a shout, that becomes unbearable after a while?"
Shaun Harris, whose niece Ms Dhu died in a South Hedland police cell after being refused medical care three times in 2014, told the rally his family knew what Doughty'd family was going through. Mr Harris appeared alongside Ms Dhu's mother Della Roe.
"Kalgoorlie is one of the most racist places in Australia hands down, and all the racists in Australia have proudly stood up to try and defend their racist capital known as Kalgoorlie," Harris said.
"But we are all standing together as one, which helps us massively in our fight, not just for black deaths in custody, but also black issues, and most certainly for a 14-year-old boy. The fact is he was run over. If he wasn't being chased this wouldn't have bloody happened. And we wouldn't be here today.
There will be rallies in coming weeks in Brisbane, Alice Springs, Geraldton, Kununurra (Western Australia) and Melbourne.