Teen shot dead by police 'no big threat'

·3-min read

An Indigenous teenager shot dead by Northern Territory police during an attempted arrest wasn't a threat to his remote community, an inquest has been told.

Kumanjayi Walker, 19, died on November 9, 2019, after Constable Zachary Rolfe, 31, shot him three times in the remote community of Yuendumu, 290km northwest of Alice Springs.

Aboriginal community police officer Derek Williams said his nephew Mr Walker was in the community to attend a beloved family member's funeral and there should have been no rush to arrest him.

"He only ran off from (a rehabilitation program). He wasn't a murderer," Mr Williams told the inquest into Mr Walker's death on Thursday.

"He wasn't a big threat to nobody. He just wanted to attend the funeral and, you know, police should work that out properly."

Mr Williams described his nephew as a shy and slow boy, who liked video games and football.

The court also heard Mr Walker's girlfriend, Rickisha Robertson, had applied for a domestic violence order against him.

Despite this, Mr Williams said it was an error for Const Rolfe and his team, who had been sent from Alice Springs to relieve exhausted local police, to attempt to arrest Mr Walker on the same day the community was having a funeral.

"You can't just go into people's yard when they're mourning a loss or attending funerals," he said.

"They can't just go in and arrest somebody ... it's no-go, you know.

"They've got to be respectful. We are all human beings. We need to be treated as human beings."

He said the Yuendumu community remained deeply affected by Mr Walker's death to this day.

"We still feel betrayed and we're still mourning," he said.

"The community's gone down and you know, they want government to listen that nothing like this happens again in any remote communities."

M Williams urged the NT police force to employ more Indigenous officers and for them to be promoted to senior ranks.

He said non-Indigenous officers should be educated about and respect the culture of the communities they are serving.

He also called for better consultation with Indigenous officers and elders before police operations, such as arresting Mr Walker.

"There's been officers who's been coming from Darwin or Alice Springs ... they take that hands-on stuff to remote communities, which lacks respect," he said.

"We don't want all this nonsense about kicking the doors down or grabbing somebody."

Const Rolfe and another officer tried to arrest Mr Walker at his grandmother's home at 7.21pm.

He was shot after he stabbed Const Rolfe with a pair of scissors and died from his injuries on the police station floor at 8.36pm.

The inquest also heard the Howard government's 2007 intervention and council amalgamations the following year stripped the Yuendumu community of decision-making powers, services and damaged its culture.

The Warlpiri language is no longer taught to the extent it was previously and local council meetings to air issues with police and the broader community no longer happen.

"It was very strong. You would hear from people what they wanted and what had to be done," Warren Williams, Warlpiri elder and deputy chair of the Central Land Council, said of the meetings.

"Everyone would give their opinions ... It worked well."

The council also used to employ people in Yuendumu, but now essential jobs such as plumbing aren't performed by local tradespeople, and residents can wait many months for services.

"People don't go to work anymore," Mr Williams said.

"We need jobs in the community."

Mr Williams said overcrowding in houses was also an issue in the community and led to children being on the streets late at night.

He called for more youth activities and for government services to be returned to Yuendumu so residents can get the help they need without having to travel to Alice Springs.