Two initiatives to remember Errol Wyles Junior

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Poet, Amelia Walker, came up with the idea of producing a zine to pay tribute to Errol Wyles Junior after she attended a screening of Black and White Justice, hosted by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (Melbourne Supporters Group). A major issue discussed that night was the lack of public awareness of how and why Errol Wyles Junior died.

Amelia thought creating a poetry zine could help change this. She put out a call for contributions to her poetry contacts around the country as well as to members of young Errol’s family and others such as Stewart Levitt, the Sydney-based lawyer involved in setting up the newly formed Errol Wyles Justice Foundation.

Not an accident. On 7th June 2003, Errol Wyles, a 15-year-old Aboriginal boy, was killed by a racist white man, Scott Hasenkamp, in a hit-run “incident.” A flawed and inadequate investigation left yet another Aboriginal family grieving and disappointed by the lack of justice.

When Channel 9 screened its excellent documentary, Black and White Justice, produced by the Sunday team, the many questions surrounding Errol’s death reached a wider audience. The documentary conveys a powerful message. This country has two kinds of justice – one black and one white. For the Indigenous people of Townsville, it is a shameful fact that genocide is not history. It still occurs on a daily basis and is perpetuated by white supremacists, such as Hasenkamp, and the system that fails to hold them to account for their crimes.

A young life honoured. Creative skills such as writing poetry have passed me by. But contributors to the zine display an abundance of poetic talent. Shooting Star honours young Errol’s memory in a remarkable way. Family and friends will no doubt reminisce about the teenager as they read and re-read Shooting Star. The title of the zine is taken from the poem Something for Diddy by Errol’s Uncle Carl. Among the contributors are Errol’s cousins, aunts and friends.

For those of us who read the zine without having known Errol, we get to know a little about a person whose life was too short. We also get some insights into the racist legal system that failed the Wyles family so spectacularly.

Errol’s parents, Sonja and Errol Wyles Senior, who gave the project their full support, said, “The zine was really good. Amelia did a great job on it.”

Not being a poet myself, I decided to ask a few of the contributors what they felt about the zine.

Errol’s aunt, Stephanie Miller, said, “The zine was one way of bringing Errol’s story to the attention of the wider community, especially in the southern states.” Her poem, What is Freedom?, is a call to action. “Freedom is having the right to say to all bad laws, ‘we can’t obey.’”

Contributor Gayle Platypus Abode said, “I think the brevity of poetry hits home.” Her piece, 2006 Conning Wealth Games, paints sport as “the big game hunter.”

Alison Thorne, who contributed a message to the zine on behalf of Radical Women, said, “I really like the zine format. The layout — especially the star theme is really creative. This helps reach out to a different audience in order to expose the injustice that is built into a legal system designed to defend the status quo. I also found the title, Shooting Star, to be a very powerful metaphor for the life and death of Errol. He was bright, vivacious and, like a shooting star, flashed by too quickly.”

Another person who contributed some fantastic provocative but honest poetry to the zine is Stewart Levitt. His poem, A Sorry Tale, pulls no punches. It powerfully answers the Howard Government’s scapegoating of Aboriginal men. Levitt’s Talking Townsville is a tribute to Errol:

Without rage they will maintain repression.
In hooded white they burn our cross.
Its cinders will define our loss.

Amelia Walker’s Fear and Freedom confronts complacency. West Australian poet, Kevin Gillam, cleverly uses repetition in his piece, Moons.

But don’t take my word for it! Get your own copy and read the diverse contributions for yourself.

Drop in to Solidarity Salon, 580 Sydney Road, Brunswick to pick up a copy of the zine. Or request a copy by mail from the Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne Supporters Group, PO Box 266, West Brunswick, VIC 3055.

Funding to battle injustice. The death of Errol Wyles Junior has also prompted another important initiative in honour of his life. On 15 November 2006, the Errol Wyles Junior Foundation held its inaugural dinner. The foundation — set up with the backing of Errol’s family — is a non-profit, community-based, non-government organisation named in remembrance of Errol. The foundation provides legal redress for Aboriginal victims of crimes and injustices and promotes the equal opportunity and treatment of Aborigines under the law. For more information on the foundation, go to

Stephanie Miller says, “The Errol Wyles Foundation is something that will be good for all Aboriginal people. This foundation is desperately needed and will go a long way in achieving justice for all who have been wronged by the corrupt Queensland Police and racist judicial system!” Errol Wyles Senior agrees. He and other family members tried every channel to get justice for their son, but were rebuffed every time. He wants others to have the legal backing to be able to fight. Stephanie hopes that this foundation, which carries Errol Junior’s name, will win legal precedents which can benefit Indigenous people across the country.

Some precedent-setting legal victories would be a fitting tribute to Errol, the “brilliant shooting star streaking across a darkened sky.”

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