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Attacks on Indigenous children ‘not isolated incidents’

Western Australia's youth commissioner says Cassius Turvey's death was not an isolated incident.

Western Australia's youth commissioner says Cassius Turvey's death was not an isolated incident. Photo: AAP

Racism has fuelled an alarming number of recent violent acts against Aboriginal children in Western Australia, the state’s youth commissioner says.

Jacqueline McGowan-Jones is giving evidence to the Senate inquiry into Missing and Murdered First Nations Women and Children at a public hearing in Perth on Wednesday.

In her submission to the inquiry, the commissioner wrote about the death of Cassius Turvey, a 15-year-old Noongar Yamatji boy allegedly chased down and attacked with a metal pole by a group of non-Indigenous adults as he walked home from school with friends in October last year.

“This is not an isolated incident of violence against First Nations children in WA,” Ms McGowan-Jones said in her submission.

“In the months leading up to the death of Cassius, two Aboriginal teenage boys were critically injured by a driver who believed they had stolen her motorbike.

“Many will also be familiar with the violent death of 14-year-old Elijah Doherty in 2016, who was killed on a motorcycle by the driver of a two-tonne 4WD.”

The man who struck down and killed Elijah stood trial charged with manslaughter, but was convicted of the lesser offence of dangerous driving causing death.

He was sentenced to three years in jail and served 19 months.

Ms McGowan-Jones is calling for governments to work with Aboriginal children and young people to enable better data collection on violent crime.

“Including the views of Aboriginal children and young people with lived experience in the development, implementation and ongoing evaluation of policy responses to violence, trauma and death will ensure that programs and practices are effectively reducing all forms of violence experienced by Aboriginal children in their families and communities,” she said.

Lawyer George Newhouse from the National Justice Project is also fronting the inquiry, and calling for greater inclusion of First Nations people by state bodies as a way to combat institutionalised racism.

Mr Newhouse’s clients include Yamatji woman Tamica Mullaley, whose baby boy Charlie was tortured and murdered by her former partner Mervyn Bell.

In 2013 Bell beat Ms Mullaley and left her naked and bleeding with life-threatening injuries on a Broome street.

When police arrived, instead of being treated as a victim of violence, Ms Mullaley was arrested along with her father Ted who had turned up to help.

The police conduct in Ms Mullaley’s case was criticised in a Corruption and Crime Commission review, though it ruled there was no serious misconduct.

A coroner investigated the death of baby Charlie but did not hold an inquest.

Representatives from WA police will be the first to front Wednesday’s hearing.

“Government institutions in WA are culturally unsafe and systemically racist,” Mr Newhouse told AAP.

“If the WA government is serious about addressing this issue, they need to establish a First Nations-led organisation that has oversight of complaints regarding the WA state coroner, the Corruption and Crime Commission, the WA police and other organisations that work with the families of missing and murdered women and children.”

WA Corruption and Crime Commission chief executive Emma Johnson and Noongar academic and human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, who has worked with Aboriginal women and children for decades, are also expected to give evidence at the inquiry hearing on Wednesday.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Lifeline 13 11 14

– AAP

Topics: Indigenous
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