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HomeIssue 25Zachary Rolfe prosecution: possible hearing in September

Zachary Rolfe prosecution: possible hearing in September

Above: Media with Ned Hargraves, chair of the Warlpiri Parumpurru Committee, seated; behind him, Lisa Watts, secretary of the committee. 



Last updated 26 June 2020, 8.49am.



The trial of Zachary Rolfe, the police officer accused of murdering Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu on November 9 last year, inched closer this morning, with the prosecution suggesting tentative dates for a committal hearing (preliminary oral examination) as early as September.


Delays have been caused by the pandemic shutdown as well as the huge brief, the court has previously heard.


Outside the court in Alice Springs, Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves, chair of the Warlpiri Parumpurru [Justice] Committee, accepted the drawn-out timetable as happening “for a reason”, even though that is not the Yapa way.


Yapa is the Warlpiri word for Indigenous people; non-Indigenous people are referred to as Kartiya.


“We as Yapa we want to get it over and done with but we can’t because the Kartiya system is not our system, we have to go along,” said this community leader, who also has years of experience in the courts working as an interpreter.


“We want to see justice …  Hopefully this will, not hopefully, this will make something happen.”


Mr Rolfe, who is pleading not guilty to the charge,  appeared by video link, as did everyone else involved in the proceedings. Judge John Birch was in Tennant Creek; Prosecutor Collette Dixon  was in Darwin; and Defence Counsel Luke Officer and Anthony Allen were in Adelaide.


Impossible to say anything about the demeanour of Mr Rolfe, who continues to reside with his parents in Canberra: he was a dark-clothed figure in a grey room, taking up a quarter of the already-distant monitor screen.


This condition of his bail continues to rile the Warlpiri Parumpurru Committee.


“We want to see the bail condition revoked,” said Mr Hargraves (at right, leaving the court).


“We want Rolfe behind bars …


“If it was a Yapa like me, an Indigenous person like me, I would not ever, ever go back to my mother, my father. If I did go back I would get a spear across my legs. That’s the punishment …


“How can you let a [alleged] murderer, so many months, enjoying life with his mother and father? It’s not right. For us Yapa, we don’t get that chance. We don’t get that chance!


“The whole system needs to realise … there can’t be another law for Kartiya, white people, there gotta be a law for Yapa too, that’s why we finding it so hard.


“I must say this, we are living in a racist world, it’s got to stop, we’ve got to come together somehow and work it.”


Mr Hargraves spoke at the recent Black Lives Matter rally in Alice Springs. On this global movement he said today: “We feel that we are not alone. We feel that this is something that every Yapa no matter where … we all are one, united, and I’m so thankful for America to have the same problem and also to fight it, to stand firm and strong.”


He also stood by his previous call for no guns on communities, saying to the media present: “We feel strongly that we can’t trust anybody, we can’t even trust you guys.”


Inside court, Judge Birch had not been prepared to provide any firm dates for a possible preliminary examination. 


A timetable was agreed for the next steps, exchange of materials including witness lists between the parties and the provision of the full brief, expected to be by August 5.


The other significant matter is that Defence Counsel will be making an application for “non-publication” and the Prosecution consent to it. It was not clear whether the Prosecution’s consent was to making the application or to its content. 


It was not said what aspects of the case the “non-publication” would apply to. To consider it, Judge Birch said he would “need further material”.


This will be provided by affidavit and the application will be heard next Wednesday, July 1.





  1. Why are so many Indigenous people in trouble with the law? Police have a terrible job to do.

  2. Really not looking forward to this case. Just hope there is some strong leadership and understanding, which ever way it goes.

  3. Mr Hargraves’ comment “We want to see the bail condition revoked,”……“We want Rolfe behind bars…” is predetermined. It says that if the defendant is found not guilty, the racism card will again be flaunted. The defendant has yet to be proven guilty.
    Mr Hargraves goes on to say “The whole system needs to realise … there can’t be another law for Kartiya, white people, there gotta be a law for Yapa too, that’s why we finding it so hard….”. Ironically, there are two sets of laws. The convenient law for aboriginals, who when they break the law and are punished, cry racism and the law that says white man will look after them financially, they happily accept it.
    So using a reverse scenario, if an Aboriginal person kills a White person, then by using Mr Hargraves’ logic, it would be OK to say, we want the Aboriginal person behind bars. Surely these kinds of comments only incite racism and prejudice any chance of a fair trial.

    I find it unfathomable that a lot of people fail to see the fact is that Police have an extremely difficult job to do anyway. Mr Hargraves’ calls for no guns on communities would make perfect sense IF the people on communities had any respect for the law.

    I am assuming that Aboriginal morals and values frown on attacking people for no real reason and stealing, breaking in to houses etc. So, if that is the case and they don’t like the white man’s law, then they should deal with crimes committed by their own people.

  4. @ Surprised!. Mr Hargraves’ comment about wanting to see Mr Rolfe “behind bars” was made in the context of talking about Mr Rolfe’s bail, as is made clear in the article.The bail allows him to live in Canberra with his parents, when most murder accused are held on remand while awaiting trial, in other words “behind bars”.
    See our previous report about this issue.

  5. @Kieran, I stand corrected.
    I can’t see the defendant is likely to be a repeat offender, so bail seems warranted.
    Everyone needs to remember the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

  6. So many Alicians are refraining from making any comment whatsoever on this most important social matter. Their silence is significant. Their reasons for remaining silent would be most enlightening.
    [ED – No surprise there, John. The matter is sub judice, that means “under the judge,” and publishing any fact relating to evidence, unless having been mentioned in court, is in contempt of court and subject to significant penalties. We will have a thorough coverage of the court case.]

  7. Ned Hargreaves does not represent me as an Aboriginal man. I like all normal Australians know that NT Police overall are a first class police service that manage a difficult situation in remote communities very well.
    In regard to some obtuse comments made on Mr Rolfe’s rights, I remind us all that Australian law states the right to the presumption of innocence is one of the guarantees in relation to legal proceedings.
    The other guarantees are the right to a fair trial and fair hearing, and minimum guarantees in criminal proceedings, such as the right to counsel and not to be compelled to self-incriminate.
    God Bless our NT police officers.

  8. I was shocked to read this story.
    Is Mr Hargreaves in contempt of court?
    Contempt of court refers to any type of behaviour that interferes with, or impedes, the administration of justice, or undermines the authority, dignity or performance of the court. It also includes the publication of anything that could prejudice the course of justice.
    If Mr Hargreaves was accused of inciting violence would he invoke the above? I would believe so.
    Will Aboriginal people ever be free to join multicultural Australia when such divisiveness exists?

  9. Thanks for the explanation, Erwin.
    Somehow, though, I tend to believe that a great number of Alicians will be most reluctant to express their views publicly. Alicians on all sides of the issue.
    Good people, people of conscience and integrity. Alicians who love their town. Alicians who are in despair and are losing hope.


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