Warlpiri don't want Zachary Rolfe murder trial to be in Darwin


Sir – Tomorrow the Alice Springs Magistrates Court will consider an application by Zachary Rolfe’s defence counsel to shift the court proceedings to Darwin.
Rolfe, a Northern Territory police officer, was charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed Kumanjayi Walker in a house at the Yuendumu Community on November 9.
Rolfe’s defence counsel may argue that the court proceedings should be held in Darwin on December 19 due to expected protests, largely driven by the Yuendumu community attending the directions hearing.
Warlpiri Parumpurru (Justice), a Yuendumu Select Committee, which has been formed to represent the Yuendumu community on matters relating to the shooting of Kumanjayi Walker, met on Monday.
The committee stated: “Warlpiri are only planning a peaceful sit down on Alice Springs court lawns, not big protests as speculated.
“Since this tragic event happened, the Yuendumu community have respected the police officer’s right to a fair trial and the leaders and elders strongly encouraged their community and the wider community to do so as well. No-one has speculated about any evidence.
“No matter where the court is held, there will be protests across the country.”

Warlpiri elders and leaders should be commended for their formidable leadership as they have ensured that the community responds peacefully through non-violent protests.
In the Northern Territory alone a total of 24 protests have occurred [and] within two weeks of the incident, 43 national protests were held across all Australian states and territories, including international protests in Vanuatu and Aoteora, New Zealand.
Locating the court proceedings in Darwin will logistically make it impossible for many of the affected families and community members from Yuendumu to attend the court proceedings and if the decision were made to locate the court proceeding in Darwin the Yuendumu community would feel excluded from accessing the court hearings that are open to the public.
Any consideration should ensure that hearings are accessible and open to the Yuendumu community.
Ned Hargraves (pictured at the rally on November 14), chairperson for Warlpiri Parumpurru (Justice) is greatly concerned if the Alice Springs Magistrates Court reaches a decision to hold the court proceedings in Darwin.
He stated: “We already feel left out. As it is, moving the trial to Alice Springs, when it happened in Yuendumu, already places a heavy burden on community members. We are always left out of things.
“Kardiya are always making decisions for us. Darwin is too far away from country for people to travel to and does not respect Warlpiri’s wishes. We are not the ones who did it and if it moves to Darwin, we will be disrespected.”
Lisa Watts
Secretary for Warlpiri Parumpurru


  1. Imagine the trial in Alice Springs.
    Ned and his Warlipiri followers protesting on a daily basis.
    Jury members could feel intimidated.
    If convicted we would see appeals based on potential intimidation of the jury.
    The trial must be held in Darwin.

  2. Logic thinking, calmness and respect for the judicial system of the western world is what is needed. It’s fine for the Walpiris to demand that the court be held in Alice Springs because of the locality (more convenient) but they all here now!
    What they have to remember is that Alice Springs is Arrente country and that is not respected by anyone, let alone the Walpiris.
    Have they bothered to run this question past the senior Arrente people or the chairman and the directors of Lhere Atepe first?
    Alice Springs is already on fire because of the disrespect to the many hard working people who live in Arrente country (black and white).
    Many of these people provide services and businesses for all to enjoy (KFC, Hungry Jacks, KMart, Coles and the main ones not forgetting as follows Centrelink, Department of Families and Children and our many emergency service providers (ambulance, hospital, firies, etc).
    It’s one thing demanding a quiet peaceful protest, but what happens when the magistrate adjourns the court for the day and the liquor starts smelling sweet and the children who have come in are looking for mum and dad, and the many drunk drivers driving in the unregistered vehicles driven around by the unlicensed drivers and then people have to wait for funds to go back home because of the lack of ability to plan and behave.
    No No No.
    Have it in Darwin. Alice Springs is already under siege!

  3. The Warlpiri have the right to be present at the hearing.
    Put yourself in their shoes.
    If it was one of your relatives would you not want to assist?

  4. Once again Darwin. Darwin is not the NT. Alice Springs is the heart of it.
    The trial will attract media and visitors, hence the revenues will go to Darwin, not Alice.
    Warlpiri and locals will have being treated with disdain.

  5. Do the Arrente want the trial in Alice Springs? No one has asked them.
    Should the whole trial be held at Yuendumu in Warlpiri country?
    Should we transport independent judges and jurors to Yuendumu daily to have the trial independent but on country?
    Just some thoughts.

  6. This is a Supreme Court matter and Alice Springs is able to facilitate that. Hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent to build a new supreme court for what?
    So I strongly believe the matter should be dealt with in Alice Springs.
    It is inconvenient and not fair for the families to have to travel to Darwin don’t you think?
    Why do people always have to make things complicated?
    I believe it’s all for the inconvenience for the people. The care factor for the people are nil and this is just a perfect example of superiority over minority.
    These people only cater to how it suits themselves best, they overlook the situation, weigh up the pros and cons then make their decision based on their predictions. Superiority over minority goes far back as 1826.

  7. Give what the Warlpiri people want. Its their family member that was killed not the “white” people. Also why keep wasting their money? They took their time off work and are paying for their stay in Alice Springs so why make them waste more money by having it in Darwin?
    It just makes the court look shit, honestly. Have it in Alice Springs.

  8. If the JUSTICE wants us to believe this court case is genuine, not bent, let the trial be in Alice.
    We must forget races, hero, cop, crook but just plain facts.
    Alice Springs will have a jury of honest citizens who want the truth.

  9. Hold the court case at Yuendumu if the new court house in Alice Springs is not good enough.
    With all this new technology we can do it. Darwin is not the be all and end all.

  10. Kathy, do you honestly believe an impartial jury will be found at Yuendumu?
    Or do you propose that a jury is bussed out to the community from another town or city? Both ideas are non starters.
    What could reasonably be done however is the streaming of the open court sessions to either the Alice Springs court or to a location in Yuendumu. Sounds like a reasonable solution to a difficult situation.

  11. The trial should be held where the [alleged] murder happened and the jury would have to be 50/50 black and white educated people.
    Jack: The only time the Warlpiris came to town was to see the white laws results and these results are a no-no.
    The only time they protested was the first day and the next will be on the 19th.
    You make out that these people are bad people.
    If this case is heard in Darwin the government should pay for fares and accommodation like they do for all the white people judges, police, lawyers, the association [police] with our taxpayers’ money. Let’s be fair.

  12. Mr Liberal: You say to ask the Lhere Artepe native title people.
    Man, the CEO cannot organise an AGM. Getting the people together.
    On December 14 he organised a meeting after three years waiting and this is how he ran it: No minutes read, no agenda, no finance report, his cousin a member of the Mparntwe Estate Group and other people no one knew were present.
    No membership read out to see if every person was a member. It seems to be one family involved –Mparntwe. His family. Nepotism all over again back in 2005. ORIC and the Aboriginal Affairs Minister will be involved in what is going on.
    [ED – The Alice Springs News has contacted Lhere Artepe to offer the right of reply.]

  13. @ Evelyne Roullet: Evelyne, I agree with you wholeheartedly that every Average Punter, not just the jury, wants the truth to come out in the trial.
    But surely the core issue here is that for justice to be served, the jury must be impartial.
    This is such a high public profile case where the vast majority of people now have pre-judged views one way or the other that the selection of 12 members with neutral views from the Central Australian community is virtually impossible, don’t you think?
    Isn’t this case a prime example why all states and territories (except Victoria) as I understand it, have the statutory provision for judge-only trial?
    The only issue for holding the trial in Alice, or indeed in a district court arrangement at Yuendumu, is security for everyone involved in the trial, surely?
    And that is a police matter to keep all people safe during proceedings. No matter who they are.

  14. Arunta Man, an impartial jury, being people who do not know Kumanjayi Walker, related to him, friends of his or his family or had otherwise any involvement in his life or the circumstances of his passing simply cannot be found in the small community of Yuendumu. Alice Springs could likely deliver this impartial jury.
    The tax payer will certainly fund transportation and other costs for people who play a part in the trial.
    This will be people who witnessed the incident and others who are called to give evidence.
    Broader members of the community not involved in legal proceedings will have to cover their own cost as is the case in all such matters.
    The defence team will have to cover the entirety of their own costs which are likely to be higher if held in Darwin than Alice Springs.
    Specifying the religious, ethnic, cultural, education or other elements of the jury is not possible and nor should it.
    The jury must simply be an impartial representation of the community which will capture a broad range of people from a wide range of backgrounds.
    Indigenous people enrolled may very likely form part of the group randomly called upon to perform their civic duty.
    Your sentiments towards Lhere Artepe are shared by many.

  15. @ John Bell: I am in total agreement with you. In cases where there is a lot of publicity, which is likely to prejudice potential jurors against the accuse, it may be more beneficial to choose a judge-alone trial.
    Fair trial and fair hearing rights include: That all persons are equal before courts and tribunals. The right to a fair and public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.
    The majority of criminal trials in the district or supreme court are conducted with a jury, but in some circumstances it is possible to have a trial without a jury, where a judge alone makes the decision.
    This can be done in circumstances where the matter is complex, or if there is a lot of media attention that could make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
    Jury trials are often represented as the fairest way to decide a criminal matter, but in some circumstances having a judge [to make the decision of guilty or not guilty] can actually be a better option.
    The process of a trial by jury means that jury deliberations are secret and they do not have to provide any reasons for making their decision.
    When a judge delivers the verdict, he/she generally has to give reasons for their decision.

  16. @ Evelyne Roullet. Thank you for your comment, Evelyne. However, I’m not really clear on what part of my comment you disagree with.
    Are you saying that in certain high profile cases where public opinion is so bitter and divided, a jury must decide, not a judge-only?
    If so, I would have a real problem with that theory.
    I will go out on a limb here and say that I would be in favour of a judge-only trial being held at Yuendumu.
    It would take a huge cooperative effort between NT Police and the community to ensure appropriate security. But hey. What a great day for justice seen to be done in the Aussie community it would be if that could happen!

  17. Darwin Observer: I agree. All I am saying the jury [needs to be] 50/50. And they can come from Darwin or Katherine.
    A thought? In the NT law system, is there such a thing as a three judge, magistrate system on the bench?
    They seem to change everything to suit themselves.

  18. @ John Bell: I wrote: “In cases where there is a lot of publicity, which is likely to prejudice potential jurors against the accuse, it may be more beneficial to choose a judge-alone trial.”

  19. @ Evelyne Roullet: Great. So I take it then that we agree that judge-only in this case is the option that best guarantees justice?
    Selection of the judge then becomes critical.
    Thankfully we are not as politicised in our judicial appointments like the USA but we are heading that way.
    A great insight into our judges and the way they think is a book “Inside the Mason Court Revolution: The High Court of Australia Transformed” by Canadian Jason L. Pierce.
    The people of Yuendumu will be watching keenly to see whom Gunner recommends be appointed in this case.

  20. After reading this story and having seen the ICAC Commissioner Mr Fleming on national television and his attendance to what looked more like an old western lynching mob gathering and he as an Aboriginal activist was shocking to say the least.
    This fellow was to preside on the said police officer’s case. Quite shocking to a civilised and impartial system of justice in Australia and indeed the world.
    Based on what we see regarding justice in the eastern states there is no way one could feel that an impartial hearing could be arrived at in the Northern Territory.
    It is better to have the trial in Sydney or Melbourne creating a far more impartial hearing environment.
    Thus, everyone must be treated equally under the law regardless of race, gender, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination or bias.
    This is a very damaging story that paints Aboriginal people as unable to participate in a civilised system; that affords all parties the usual and expected fairness in a democratic system of justice.
    If Lady Justice was seen figuratively, she would definitely have the scales stacked on one side of her by insidious design.
    If I were a police officer in the Northern Territory in particular working in and around remote Aboriginal communities I would be thinking of transferring to a less politicised work environment. We must understand that police work in this era is probably the most difficult, working in an environment of immediate conflagration unknown in civilised areas of Australia.
    The good work that NT Police do for Aboriginal people in remote and regional areas are through hard work and dedication and at great risk. We feel that this police officer is being marginalised well before any justice has been applied.
    If these people in Alice Springs are allowed to place pressure on the judiciary then the already lowered reputation of the Northern Territory being able to administer government will be at an all time low.
    Statehood for the Norther Territory is many, many years away at this point in time. I would not be surprised if this did not happen this century.
    Hats off to the Northern Territory police officers, if they were not present in the Northern Territory then I am sure that mob rule and anarchy would prevail en masse.
    Officer Rolfe must be afforded every right of justice as an Australian citizen.

  21. @ Neville Pearson: I agree with you that Mr ICAC Fleming’s comments were appalling and inflammatory. The NT Police do a magnificent job under extremely difficult conditions in remote communities.
    However, I cannot agree with you that justice demands a trial down south in the Big Smoke.
    I feel that is demeaning to the integrity and the community goodwill of the Aboriginal people of Central Australia.
    Above all, it implies that the judiciary and officers of the court generally cannot be relied upon to fulfil their duties to the Australian people at large if they conduct the trial in the NT or in Yuendumu particularly.
    I believe that this trial should be by judge-only and it should be held in Yuendumu. We must be able to have confidence in our ability to ensure justice is done fairly and without bias or undue pressure in any and every section of the Australian community.
    Take it into the Warlpiri community, conduct it with the joint cooperative security measures put in place by agreement with the community.
    If we are not capable of doing that, then there is no hope for the future of a multiculturally divided nation.

  22. @ John Bell: If you propose changing the goal posts of how justice is administered and delivered, I hope you will ask the main players if they are happy with it.
    The accused and the family of the other party should expect the same conditions as every other party involved in a murder charge, not change it because of the race of one party.

  23. @ Neville Pearson: “Impartial system of justice in Australia and indeed the world.” Do you know all the judiciary systems?
    I can speak only of the French judiciary system.
    Australia: Rolfe, a Northern Territory police officer, was charged with murder after he allegedly killed Kumanjayi Walker.
    France: In the French penal code, murder is defined by the intentional killing of another person. Hence unless proven he intended to kill, an accused will not be charged with murder but with homicide.
    This is the act of one human killing another. A homicide requires only a volitional act by another person that results in death, and thus a homicide may result from accidental, reckless, or negligent acts even if there is no intent to cause harm.
    France doesn’t have a jury system (abolished in 1941) but a mixed tribunal made up of six lay judges and three professional judges, with convictions decided by a two-thirds majority.

  24. @ Local1: I think I understand your argument. Criminal cases are usually conducted in the jurisdiction area covering the community where the alleged murder is committed.
    In this case it would be Alice Springs.
    But there is nothing to prevent the court from conducting the case in another physical location.
    It is only a courtroom location after all.
    In a judge-only trial, an appointed competent judge who applies due process and procedural fairness will come to the same decision, regardless of the trial’s physical location where appropriate security measures are in place.
    I think a good judge would never ever let the surroundings affect his or her judgment.
    I ask you the question: Why do you think holding the trial in the Yuendumu community would affect the judge’s decision? Can you put your reasons into words?

  25. Thanks for your reply, John Bell.
    My reasons are twofold. Firstly as murder is an indictable offence, it is a matter for Supreme Court, we have two of those.
    It is (IMO) the appropriate place to hold it, and like other trials, the accused should be judged by a jury of his peers.
    Many murders have occurred in remote Aboriginal communities over the years, were those trials held in the community where they occurred?
    What about the boys convicted of killing the pool manager at Yuendemu?
    That trial was held in Alice I believe.
    Also the murderer of Gayle Woodford, that murder trial did not occur on the SA Community where the crime occurred, from memory that was Adelaide?
    What makes this case so different that would justify making the venue anywhere else but Supreme Court.
    Are we not all the same and equal under the law, regardless of our race?
    Again if this move was done, what message would it be giving to the accused, who deserves the presumption of innocence?
    My second point is simply the perception of different treatment purely based on race.
    If such an unusual move was done, there would be a massive outcry that something underhanded was at play, if this one murder charge, unlike all the others, was held on a community, to “appease” (regardless of the real reasons) one group.
    Anyway, just my opinions.

  26. @ Local 1: Thanks mate. Good thoughts. While we would appear to disagree on whether this should be trial by jury or by judge-alone, I think we both would agree that the integrity of the court process is paramount no matter where the case is held.
    I see your point about previous contentious trials of remote community deaths and the need to be judged by your peers.
    However, that is precisely why I fear trial by jury in such powder keg cases.
    Trial by jury fails the pub test in such cases. Juries are highly vulnerable. I must admit that some would get a negative message if the Supreme Court held the trial by jury in Yuendumu.
    I would be very worried too. But in a judge only trial, where a good judge will not be swayed by the volatile crowd, I think it would be a terrific vote of confidence in our criminal justice system.
    The pressure would be on the judge to weigh up all the evidence immediately after the trial, far from the madding crowd in isolation to deliver a verdict in due course.
    Reading the verdict in a packed courtroom in Yuendumu would be a supreme test (pardon the pun) of integrity and community goodwill for everyone concerned.
    Such a situation would force everyone to accept that this is for an impartial judge to decide. Fearlessly. In the heartland. Focused on the evidence of all the parties. Transparently covered by mainstream media. Somehow though, I don’t think any government would be brave enough to create this scenario. A pity. In my opinion.
    Hope you have a happy Christmas. My thoughts are with the accused cop and the lad who lost his life.

  27. More on the Rolfe Murder trial: “In the Northern Territory, persons charged with serious offences are tried by a Judge and jury in the Supreme Court. This ensures every person accused of a serious crime receives a fair trial, free from government or political influence.”
    This is worth reading to understand the process.
    In different state/territories the rules may permit Defendants to choose they be tried before a Judge only.


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