Yuemdumu community sticking together after alleged murder


Police have charged two men, aged 16 and 18, over the death of 53-year-old pool manager Jupurrula Berry in Yuendumu last Thursday, but an elder has denied media reports that locals are fleeing the community in fear of further violence, it is reported.
The two accused have been charged with murder, arson, aggravated unlawful use of a motor vehicle and stealing.
In a media release Eddie Robertson, the chair of the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC) which employed Mr Berry, is quoted as saying: “The whole community is gathering around to mourn this wonderful man who knew every child by name.
“All families and agencies are showing their respect in their own ways. The children and young people are very sad and have placed flowers, cards and letters at the swimming pool.”
WYDAC manager Susie Low is quoted as saying: “Obviously everyone is grieving but we are all supporting each other and to claim [in the NT News] that there is a climate of fear is just irresponsible nonsense.”
Mr Berry was the first non-Aboriginal person the Yuendumu football team has honoured with a moving ceremony of appreciation known locally as a “memory game”.
Ms Low is quoted as saying one of the two youths charged has only been in the community since December last year.
The other was employed by WYDAC as a pool attendant since 2013 while living with and being cared for by Mr Berry.
CLC and PAW Media chair Francis Kelly, who lives in Yuendumu but has been in hospital for the past two weeks, sent his condolences to Mr Berry’s family and the WYDAC team, says the release.
“Jupurrula had a good heart and was good with Yapa people. He listened and understood our culture. He was learning from us, as well as teaching us and our children.,” Mr Kelly is quoted as saying.
“I feel proud of my community for looking after each other during this sad and stressful time. We are all family and work any problems out together.”
The CLC’s community development program has worked with the community and WYDAC to build and run the pool Mr Berry managed.


  1. This will send a chill through everyone who works on an Aboriginal community and those contemplating taking up employment there.
    It would seem that if this can happen to a caring person like Mr Berry then no one is safe.
    Horrific to think that one of the accused was employed by WYDAC as a pool attendant since 2013 while living with and being cared for by Mr Berry.
    Employers now have a responsibility and duty of care to look into the circumstances of the alleged murder and manage what appears to be a heightened risk for non Aboriginal workers.
    Are Aboriginal communities heading the way of PNG where expat staff live behind razor wire?

  2. Please refrain from comments made in ignorance of the situation. This was family violence, not related in any way to race or the Yuendumu community.

  3. Nangala, The alleged murder has everything to do with race and Yuendumu community.
    Giving Mr Berry a ‘skin name’ does not make this alleged murder ‘family violence’.
    Many whitefellas (Kardia) working on Aboriginal communities are given ‘skin names’, but this does not make them Aboriginal or truly part of families.
    If Mr Berry was part of an Aboriginal family the youths who allegedly killed him would have been too fearful of the consequences to carry out their [alleged] crime.
    Those consequences would have included instant outrage and violent reprisal by Mr Berry’s Yapa family, as is their duty.
    But of course, Mr Berry was just like hundreds of outsiders who go to work with and assist Aboriginal people.
    He was completely unprotected, he didn’t stand a chance.
    His death is an absolute disgrace and every member of the Yuendumu community should be deeply ashamed by it.
    To suggest that this is anything but an outrage that every non Aboriginal worker should pay close attention to is deceptive.
    An urgent OH&S safety audit needs to be undertaken at Yuendumu and until that is complete and staff protected all non essential workers should be withdrawn from the community.

  4. Whilst ever Australia accepts that children continue to be raised in third world communities, young troubled adults who know nothing but despair and violence will continue the cycle of hopelessness and crime.
    Whilst there can be no justification for this savage act, I wonder what conditions these two alleged offenders grew up in?
    [If they are found guilty, the question would need to be asked:] If they had been raised in a decent and caring environment where welfare had greater importance than clinging to a struggling culture, this could have been avoided.
    If this crime does not highlight the need of generational change, what will?

  5. Davies Re: Posted February 6, 2015 at 3:44 pm
    “If Mr Berry was part of an Aboriginal family the youths who allegedly killed him would have been too fearful of the consequences to carry out their [alleged] crime.”
    Other than “[alleged]” the above statement is not correct.
    IF correct then so many of the other murders, rapes and injuries would not be occurring.
    Any racial focus is a distraction, often deliberate, to avoid addressing the real causes of such violence.
    Let’s blame someone for any offence is quite different to proving they did it.
    Many judicial systems seeks first to identify offenders, then to punish them, so as to discourage such violence.

  6. “IF correct then so many of the other murders, rapes and injuries would not be occurring.”
    Good point Paul Parker, but surely you would agree that family relationships and fear of retribution does act to deter murder (injury is not punishable under Aboriginal law), though obviously not in all instances.
    My point is that Mr Berry was not afforded family protection but his “family” ties are being used to suggest this [alleged] murder has nothing to do with the community of Yuendumu.
    That is a dangerous suggestion and all whitefellas working on the community should take heed of this alleged killing and insist that their employers protect them.
    The police presence on the community should be increased immediately.
    It would send the wrong message to simply continue on with the youth initiative as if nothing had happened, when some of the youth who have benefited from the program have allegedly killed their benefactor, and contemptuously stolen his vehicle and trashed it.
    It is intolerable for a respected staff member of WYDAC to have been allegedly murdered and manager Susie Low needs to stop acting as an apologist for the community and say this loud and clear.

  7. Davies (Posted February 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm) needs to hold fire, as s/he is making wrong assumptions about the nature of this incident and the backgrounds of these young men.
    Nangala is correct in her comments: this is most likely a clear case of family violence.
    Neither of the young men who have been charged were born or raised long term at Yuendumu, but one was the “adopted” son of the deceased. That young man was born far away and is probably not kin to anyone in the town. These young men are not part of the community in the way that Davies is imagining.
    The incident is very unusual.
    If things are as dangerous for outside staff in remote communities as Davies implies, where is the evidence of this? This atypical, isolated incident is a tragedy, but it is not evidence of particular danger to staff members who come from outside these communities. It could have happened anywhere.

  8. I am increasingly concerned about the spin that hides the implications of the alleged killing of Mr Berry by some Aboriginal youth at Yuendumu.
    You say that “Neither of the young men who have been charged were born or raised long term at Yuendumu”.
    That would fit the description of at least a quarter of all youth at the community because it is absolutely normal for Walpiri youth to live with a variety of relatives in other Walpiri communities such as Lajamanu.
    You say that the “young man was born far away and is probably not kin to anyone in the town.”
    I would suggest that is incorrect and while the youth may be temporarily disowned he certainly has kin at the community. If he received a royalty payment his relatives would come forward in a flash.
    On one hand you say that Mr Berry (a whitefella) was the “father” but that the Walpiri youth wasn’t kin to anyone.
    You say that one of the alleged killers was the “adopted” son of the deceased. “Son” by skin name is normal, everyone who works on a community has many of them and if Mr Berry took the relationship seriously and looked after his alleged murderer this make the alleged crime even worse.
    The tragic fact is that a respected man helping the youth of the community has allegedly been killed by two of the Walpiri youth he was assisting, and they have then shown him a final disrespect by allegedly stealing his vehicle and allegedly torching it.
    This is a disgrace, and Mr Berry and all workers at Yuendumu deserve better than the spin that is trying to cover this up.
    The alleged murder is a wake up call and must not be allowed become to swept under the carpet.
    It is not business as usual.
    The Yuendumu community should dig into their mining royalties, currently at high levels, to pay all Mr Berry’s funeral expenses, family travel and also compensate them.
    NT Worksafe should be involved and a safety audit carried out at Yuendumu.

  9. @ Observer: “Where welfare had greater importance than clinging to a struggling culture…” what a prejudicial observation! Our mainstream culture shouldn’t be too smug, complicit as we are in climate change and drone attacks!
    @ Bob Durnan: “It could have happened anywhere.” Indeed it could have and it too often does! As someone who lives in Yuendumu, I’d like to say that your comment is the most sensible one.
    As for @ Davies: What utter nonsense!
    Using your “logic” NT Worksafe should carry out safety audits in such places as Moe and Brunswick in Victoria, not to mention Snowtown and Alice Springs.
    And (as mis-reported for Yuendumu – people fleeing!) mass exoduses should follow any murder anywhere in Australia.

  10. Jungarayi, “As for @ Davies: What utter nonsense!”
    You are sure that even before any investigation this alleged murder has no implications for other workers in the youth program and elsewhere in the community?
    You don’t think that there could be any lessons to be learned to make sure this won’t happen again?
    And what about assistance from community mining royalties to Mr Berry’s family for their expenses?
    Why is that nonsense?
    It is far better for everyone, including the youth, to face up to what has allegedly happened and work with the appropriate agencies to deal with it, make whatever changes are needed and move forward.

  11. @ Davies: I’m a Warlpiri and I’m from Yuendumu Community.
    I just wanted to let you know that the two youths that were working with Berry, weren’t Warlpiri.
    The boy he adopted was from Western Australia and the other was Arrernte. So they weren’t Warlpiri at ALL. So get your facts right, MR Know It All!

  12. And so for all of youse, for us Yuendumu people Berry was a good person and we miss him heaps. We feel the hurt pain and sadness.
    We still can’t believe he left us in a such tragic way without saying his goodbyes.

  13. I constantly miss my big brother Rick, and always will.
    This has left a huge hole in our family, but he lives on in us remembering, telling his stories, and having a good laugh about times we had together.


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