Kumanjayi Walker inquest hears another death could happen in Yuendumu if additional support is not provided

Home Politics Kumanjayi Walker inquest hears another death could happen in Yuendumu if additional support is not provided
Kumanjayi Walker inquest hears another death could happen in Yuendumu if additional support is not provided

In the remote community of Yuendumu, where 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker was shot by a police officer three years ago, a youth worker says there are several young people facing “many of the difficulties” Mr Walker did before his death.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains an image of a person who has died, used with the permission of their family.

Brooke Shanks, the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC) youth development manager, told the coroner investigating Mr Walker’s death that the kids were “heading [down] the same path”.

“Do you think that in light of the death, committal, the trial, all of the media attention as a result of this inquest, there has been a concerted effort by government to intervene in their lives and ensure that things change?” Patrick Coleridge, counsel assisting the coroner, asked.

“No,” Ms Shanks said.

She agreed with Mr Coleridge there was a risk that if things didn’t change “what happened on November 9 might happen again”.

A medium close-up of a blonde white woman, looking down. She is going down some steps.
Brooke Shanks says more funding is needed to support youth programs in Yuendumu.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

Mr Walker died after he was shot three times by Constable Zachary Rolfe on November 9, 2019.

Constable Rolfe, who has been acquitted of all charges related to the death, fired his weapon during an attempt to arrest Mr Walker for breaching a court order and assaulting police.

The coroner has previously heard Mr Walker struggled with a series of health issues, had disengaged from the education system, and had a long criminal history.

Ms Shanks, who has lived in Yuendumu for seven years, told the court one of the children she had identified with similar struggles “had a very close relationship” with the 19-year-old before he died.

A black and white image of a young man smiling, wearing a baseball cap, headphones around his neck
Kumanjayi Walker was fatally shot by Constable Rolfe in Yuendumu in 2019.(Supplied)

Funding for services an issue

The coroner heard WYDAC oversaw youth development programs across Warlpiri communities in the central desert region, including Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Nyirripi and Willowra.

In Yuendumu, Ms Shanks said between 50 and 120 children accessed evening programs, which run Tuesday to Saturday to “steer young people away from antisocial behaviour”.

A building that says "welcome to WYDAC" on the side.
Between 50 and 120 children access evening programs at WYDAC in Yuendumu, Ms Shanks says.(ABC News)

“One of the biggest reasons to give them fun activities during the night time [is] to try and decrease the break-ins and decrease that antisocial behaviour with substance abuse, whether it be ganja smoking or alcohol or anything like that,” Ms Shanks said.

But the coroner heard funding issues limited the organisation’s ability to provide some of the key services needed by younger children in the community.

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