Momentum is building around the country in the campaign to expose the truth behind the death of Errol Wyles Junior. The key goal is to achieve justice for the family of this 15-year-old Aboriginal boy who was killed in violent and tragic circumstances on 7 June 2003 in Townsville, Queensland.
Errol Wyles Junior’s life was taken when a 21-year-old self-proclaimed racist, Scott Hasenkamp, reversed his vehicle twice over the young boy and then left the scene. Prior to this horrific incident, Hasenkamp had verbally threatened young Errol. However Queensland police have dismissively claimed that the young Aboriginal woman who heard this threat is not a credible witness. Although police knew of Hasenkamp’s whereabouts within a short time of the incident occurring, they did not approach him until four hours after the killing thereby avoiding the legal requirement to breath test him.
Scott Hasenkamp was eventually tried and served a 15-month sentence. He spent two months in jail and the remainder working on a prison farm.
Errol had been dead for three days before the Wyles family was even informed by police of what they call an “accident.” Errol Wyles Snr, the father of Errol Jnr, argues that it misrepresents what occurred to describe the events that night as an accident.
Unfortunately, the experience of the Wyles family is not unusual. Many Aboriginal people experience similar treatment by police and the judicial system. Another young woman, Yasman Rae Sturt, died after being hit by a car driven by 19-year-old white Townsville motorist, Michael Burke, who also fled the scene.
Stephanie Miller, an Auntie of Errol Jnr, believes there is systemic racism in Townsville. She describes another incident involving her niece. The young woman was riding home one night and was deliberately run off the road by a car driven by white guys. Her bike wheels were buckled but luckily she wasn’t badly hurt, just bruised and very scared. She rang police from a nearby hotel. The police response was to send a taxi. They did not send a squad car to investigate or take a statement!
Stephanie says this is the police attitude that Aboriginal people have to put up with. “The police keep saying we have to report these kinds of incidents to them, but there is no commitment from them to actually investigate these complaints. If they actually start an investigation, nothing further is ever heard from the police.”
Similar incidents occur all over Australia. For example, we only have to look at the failure of the system to hold to account those responsible for the deaths of Douglas Scott in Berrimah Jail, Darwin, TJ Hickey in Redfern and Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island.
Recently, the Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne Supporters Group (ISJA – MSG) held a solidarity evening which featured the screened Sunday program report titled Black and White Justice. Open letters to the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Linda Lavarch, and the Minister for Police and Corrective Services, Judy Spence, were launched at the event. The letters support the recently lodged submission to the Queensland Government by law firm Levitt Robinson, which is acting for the family on a pro bono basis.
The aims of the campaign are to get justice done and have Hasenkamp re-charged with murder and taken to trial, to expose the corrupt judicial and police system and to expose and combat the racism within the Townsville community and Australia-wide. If Hasenkamp is re-charged, goes to trial and is convicted on murder, this could set a precedent for future cases and send a message to the white supremacists of Townsville that they can no longer get away with terrorising Indigenous youth.
Stephanie Miller declares, “we will never give up seeking justice, not only for Errol Jnr, but for all our brothers and sisters who have been wronged by the racists, the police and judiciary!”
Get involved. Come to the next ISJA-MSG meeting. Call
03-9388-0062 for details. Check out the Levitt Robinson website www.levittrobinson.com and make a donation to the campaign by contributing to the Errol Wyles Junior Foundation. This Foundation also plans to defend those arrested during the protest on Palm Island and will back the legal campaign for Indigenous workers to win back their stolen wages.
Cheryl is a member of the Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne Supporters Group.