By Elyse Simich
On Monday morning Police were called to a reported motorcycle crash in bushland off Clancy Street in Boulder. Fourteen-year-old aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty was found dead at the scene.
On Tuesday, the news broke that a 55-year-old man had been charged with the unlawful killing of the teenager. Allegedly, he ran Elijah down with his ute because the teenager was riding a stolen motorcycle.
Twelve police officers were injured, windows were smashed and five police cars were damaged when they were pelted with rocks and glass bottles by 200 protesters outside the courthouse. The indigenous community is devastated by the charge this man is facing: manslaughter, not murder.
Why did this happen and what can we do about it?
The two major Facebook communities for the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area were abuzz with violent messages. Though these posts have been deleted, Triple J’s Hack published them at the request of members from the indigenous community. They have been aware of these comments for months and have been calling for the pages to be shut down.
The Facebook posts have come about due to an increase in motorbike theft.
Hack said in the past year there was an increase of 406 vehicle thefts. 192 of those occurred in two weeks over the summer.
According to The Australian, Elijah’s grandfather, Albert Doughty said his grandson had saved up enough money to buy two motorcycles, but both of them were stolen. This may be the reason he was riding a stolen motorcycle at the time of his death.
Mr Doughty told ABC radio hundreds of bikes have gone missing, and non-aboriginal kids are stealing them too.
The Australian has reported this violence is not a once off. An eyewitness told them she saw a four-wheel drive ram the back of two motorbikes, throwing two aboriginal boys off last summer. This is a seemingly common way of retrieving stolen vehicles. And this vigilantism has got to stop.
Western Australian Police Minister Liza Harvey told the ABC, “With respect to vigilante action, if you like, police are investigating the claims that has become a part of the culture in Kalgoorlie, and is certainly not something we would encourage in any way shape or form.”
The scene which unfolded on Tuesday was a result of the constant goading on the Facebook page, as well as Elijah’s death. And it’s not the first time a crime against an aboriginal person hasn’t been taken as seriously as it should have been.
Remember aboriginal Elder Mr Ward’s death in 2008? He was arrested for drink driving in Laverton, WA. He was transported 400 kilometres in the back of a prison van, operated by a private security company, according to ABC’s Four Corners. They reported the air temperature in the back of the van reached 47 degrees; the metal surfaces reached 56 degrees. The ABC reported with third degree burns on his abdomen and a core body temperature of 41 degrees, he could not be revived and passed away due to heatstroke.
WorkSafe fined the Department of Corrective Services, the security company, a prisoner transport guard and the prison van driver. But no one was ever charged with his death.
In 1983, a 16-year-old aboriginal boy died in police custody. It was a result of a drunken brawl in Roebourne, WA, according to the ABC. While five police officers were charged with manslaughter of John Pat, none of them were found guilty.
There are so many more stories like this in Western Australia alone. According to New Matilda, this “uprising” by the Indigenous community in Kalgoorlie is a result of a failed justice system. This is the same system that released the killers of John Pat and Mr Ward. And they have had enough of feeling like their lives don’t matter as much.
In America The Black Lives Matter network advocate for African-Americans who have been killed by vigilantism and police, and aims to rebuild the Black liberation movement.
Indigenous Australians need to know their lives do matter, and to do that, a lot of change has to occur. An apology isn’t enough. It’s time to start looking at the real issues at play here, and these issues date back two hundred years. It’s obvious there is a problem when everyone has turned their attention to the Aboriginal protestors instead of the white man who killed a child. Enough is enough and it’s time to realise that we’re all humans, and we all deserve the same treatment.