Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

STANDING COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE

By: The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE
Preface
Between September 1990 and January 1991, Colleen Walker-Craig, aged 16, Evelyn Greenup, aged 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, aged 16, went missing from the same street in the small township of Bowraville. In early 1991, the bodies of Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux were found in bushland along the Congarinni Road on the outskirts of the town. Clothing belonging to Colleen Walker-Craig was also found in the Nambucca River running through the same area of bushland, however Colleen’s body has never been found. 

To provide context to the themes discussed in this report, the key events relating to the Bowraville murders can be summarised as follows. 

• Although three children disappeared, only two bodies have been found. 
• Only one Person of Interest has been identified in connection to the cases. That person was tried separately for the murders associated with the two bodies found yet acquitted on both counts. 
• The evidence relating to all three murders has never been considered together by a court. 
• No one has been convicted for the murder of the three children – a killer is walking free. 

Although the committee received detailed evidence in regard to the disappearances and murders, many of these details have been covered in articles and television documentaries and therefore have not been reproduced in this report. 

In evidence to the committee, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning described the events and decisions surrounding the Bowraville murder investigations, trials and attempts for a retrial under the 2006 double jeopardy laws as a ‘perfect storm’ that have worked together to frustrate attempts for a successful prosecution for the murders of Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux. Jumbunna stated that: … the case is exceptional in that, at all turns, a series of decisions, intentional and unintentional, well-meaning and considered in some cases, ill-considered and indifferent in others, have had negative consequences for the prospects of [a successful prosecution]. Indeed, if one had intentionally set out (we do not for a moment suggest this was the case) to deny effective justice as contemplated by our political and legal system to a discrete community, they could not have done a better job.

The committee is hopeful that this report will go some way to explaining the ‘perfect storm’ of events that has characterised the families’ experiences of the past 23 years and instigate a legal debate that may bring the families one step closer to their ultimate aim – justice.
………………..
Report: The family response to the murders in Bowraville
My Speech on this subject.
The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE [10.10 a.m.]: I echo the kind words of the Leader of the Government and Minister for Roads and Freight, and those of Mr David Shoebridge, who in his heart, soul and mind has been deeply committed to this issue. I acknowledge the good work of the Hon. David Clarke as chair of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice. I thank the committee members for their support of the community. I will make a brief contribution to the debate on the Standing Committee on Law and Justice report entitled, "The family response to murders in Bowraville".

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I acknowledge in the public gallery and in the President's gallery the families of the deceased Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, and other members of the Bowraville community, as well as Detective Inspector Jubelin and his team, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing, Professor Diana Eades, social worker Barry Toohey, staff of the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, Alex Mason from law firm Allens Arthur Robinson and many others. The children and grandchildren of Aunty Elaine also have joined us today. I acknowledge Aunty Elaine's contribution and her warm welcome to country and I express my condolences to her family on her recent passing.

The Standing Committee on Law and Justice was asked to inquire into and report on the family response to the murders in Bowraville and to give the families an opportunity to detail the impact of the murders of their children on them and their community. To me, it was a curious approach to an inquiry. What would be the families' response? What would this inquiry entail? What were we expected to recommend? What was the committee expected to produce? This matter had come before the courts a number of times and it had been referred to a number of State Attorneys, all to no avail. What would be the families' responses to the murder of their three children when they had already made their cases ad nauseam? Was this inquiry intended as just a show? Was it to give the appearance that the Government is listening and to send a message that we would produce a report, which in the end would be shelved? This Government and the committee in particular were not going to have a bar of that.

The committee wanted an outcome and, while it was under no illusions, wanted the Government and the entire Parliament to act to bring justice. We wanted to flesh out the issues and make recommendations that would produce an outcome. Little did we know that the families, curious and doubtful at first, would open up and tell us more than we had hoped for. I attribute this to their decency but also to the genuineness with which we as committee members and staff approached this matter—in particular the chair, the Hon. David Clarke, who, like all of us, wanted an outcome. 

The families gave us a snapshot of their suffering. They captured a moment in time of Aboriginal history, a history of a people who had endured untold suffering and injustice inflicted upon them as a people. They told us how they were treated by all levels of authority: they were merely black people; they were irrelevant to white society. The search for and trial of the murderer of their children was a whitewash. It would not have been botched had those children been white. Discrimination, racism and disrespect shamelessly ran rampant. 

I was aware that their response would be to tell of their suffering and of their need to address an injustice that they had suffered for 23 years and will continue to suffer until justice is done, but they told us more. What they told us was heart-wrenching but, as Martin Luther King Jr would say, they transformed the suffering into a creative force. They transformed their suffering into a force for change, a force for answers and a force for recognition of their plight as a people. Their presence at the inquiry told us a lot about their tenacity, perseverance and strength of will to never give up no matter what the hurdles were. It told us a lot about their determination and resolve to find answers to this lingering case of injustice. 

This was not a case of simple injustice between contracting parties, a violation of a right between competing citizens or an unfair action by one party on another party. This was a human issue, a human case. It was a matter of natural justice for the lives of children who had been murdered. These innocent lives were cut short by a murderer, who has been on the loose for 23 years and counting. These murders have left a large imprint on the hearts and minds of every member of the Bowraville community. The system has and continues to fail the deceased and their families. 

I understand their suffering and the hurt they continue to feel. I feel it and I know it has been overwhelming. We think that time will heal but never will it heal the deep feeling of loss of the life of a loved child, particularly a life cut short by a malicious murderer who continues to live his life without any justice for the deceased. A few months after my parents and my siblings and I arrived in Australia in 1977, my second youngest brother, while crossing a road, was hit by a car and killed. He was only seven. Thirty-eight years later, not one day or one month or one year passes without my parents experiencing a deep sense of grief for the loss of their loved child.

What happened in Bowraville is a tragedy. I hope the Government heeds the calls of the community, as reflected in the recommendations in this report. We want justice and a change in the way society treats Aboriginal people. When a child goes missing there should be an outcry and every resource should be mustered to search for the missing person, whether the person is black or white. We must leave no stone unturned and no resource sitting idle. Mainstream media, police and social services must immediately click into gear.

Is there any wonder that Aboriginal Australians express a deep sense of frustration when one of their children goes missing and there is barely a whisper, or when one of their elderly people goes missing and it does not rate a mention? Whether a person is black or white should not determine the manner of a police investigation, contemporary or retrospective. Resources should be used equally in all missing person investigations. Resources must be assembled irrespective of the missing person's race, colour, creed or religion. I ask the Government and all members to heed the cry of heavy bleeding hearts and the blood of these children and to seek justice in order to heal the wounds.

0 comments: