Warning: Some of the people in this story have passed away, murdered by a corrupt and racist system.
“Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption … ” – Hippocratic Oath (Ορκος) taken by all doctors.
The recent death in custody of Kumunjayi, a Warlpiri teenager, resulting in a murder charge against a police officer is a sorry indictment of police but also of medical authorities. Take for example the failure of medical staff to attend to the young man while he was still alive, wounded by police bullets. Reports say the royal doctors flying service and other medical staff would not attend to assist the young man shot citing safety as the reason.
- The Royal Flying Doctors Service received a brief initial report of a gunshot wound in Yuendumu at 7:45pm
- The aeromedical team had still not departed at 9pm, when the service was told Kumanjayi Walker had died
- The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT is calling for an investigation into the evacuation of local health clinics and the aborted aircraft response
Given the urgency why did it take yet another half an hour for a formal request for an airlift to be made to the RFDS by the Northern Territory Government’s Medical Retrieval and Consultation Centre.
In what context was the refusal to attend made? What is/are the relationship(s) between police and medical staff in Yuendumu?
The NT Health Department spokesperson claimed two clinic workers from Yuelamu who arrived in Yuendumu after the shooting on Saturday night “were injured in community unrest” but did not give any details about what happened. The department did not explain why it closed the Yuendumu clinic.
Are some of nurses at the Yuendumu married to police?
Is closure of the Yuendumu medical clinic atypical or is it a recurring pattern?
Why are the Yuendumu clinic hours abysmal, why do patients have to ring Mparntwe/Alice Springs (300 kms away) after hours?
In response, why do authorities call the nurses at Yuendumu to attend (or not) to medical emergencies?
Given Constable Zach Rolfe fired three bullets into Kumunjayi’s body why didn’t medical staff attend to Kumunjayi’s wounds when asked?
In 2004, during a similar murder-in-custody on Palm Island, Mulrunji was left to die unaided in his cell while police heard Mulrunji’s death throes on the video monitoring system. As a result of this indifferent behaviour, coroner Christine Clements made the following observations in October 2006:
“There is clear evidence that this (the pleas from Mulrunji) must have been able to be heard from the police station dayroom where the monitor was running.
Indeed the timing of Senior Sergeant Hurley’s visit to the cell suggests that the sounds were heard.
But the response was completely inadequate and offered no proper review of Mulrunji’s condition or call for medical attention.” (See page 26 of “Finding of Inquest”).
Reports say the Walker family and broader Yuendumu community welcome the murder charge against the police officer, but they maintain it is not enough.
The demands of the community are for comprehensive justice including an independent investigation, a coronial inquest to take place in Yuendumu, for 24-hour medical staffing in the community, no police for at least one year and alternative community policing such as Night Patrol.
Sadly it is a typical response reminiscent of the state of emergency declared by Premier Peter Beattie after Mulrunji had been murdered by police officer Chris Hurley on Palm Island in 2004.
On Wednesday 13 Nov 2019, Constable Zachary Rolfe was charged with the murder of Kumanjayi Walker. The 28-year-old police officer was granted bail in an out-of-session court hearing. He has been suspended on pay, to appear in an Alice Springs court on December 19, 2019. You can easily guess the defence to be run by police: there was no premeditation to commit the crime because constable Rolfe did not engage in any action of planning beforehand: there was no intent.
15 November 2019