QLD_CP_NEWS_RIOT_4MAR20
QLD_CP_NEWS_RIOT_4MAR20

Cape elder: Police need to do more in Aurukun

AN AURUKUN elder has called for a review into policing in the community and fears he will never return to his troubled home town.

Currently living in Townsville, Wik elder and director of the Cape York Land Council Jonathan Korkatain met displaced Aurukun residents in Cairns this week.

He and the CYLC board have called for an independent review of law and order in the Western Cape community.

Chairman of the Cape York land Council Richie Ah Mat and senior Wik elder Senior Wik elder Jonathan Korkatain PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Chairman of the Cape York land Council Richie Ah Mat and senior Wik elder Senior Wik elder Jonathan Korkatain PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

He said police had applied a double standard at Aurukun by applying a "hands off" approach to indigenous violence in the community.

"Police are too slow to respond to phone calls about unrest or they do not come at all," said Mr Korkatain, a former Aurukun councillor.

"Instead they watch the violence escalate on CCTV. They stand back or sit back in their car and video fights."

It is understood several witnesses to a fight at Aurukun on January 1 alerted police before a 37-year-old man died. Two teens have been charged with his murder.

"When they called the police, they did not respond," Mr Korkatain said.

Aurukun was deserted following riots on New Year's Day
Aurukun was deserted following riots on New Year's Day

"I understand that police have to protect themselves, but there were serious things happening and they have to be there to stop it."

He said a harder stance by police would be supported if action was carried out in conjunction with community engagement.

Mr Korkatain came face-to-face with rioters on New Year's Day.

"They stormed up to my house. They said 'you are one of them'. I could see in their faces, that there was alcohol involved," he said.

Mr Korkatain said the problem was compounded by lack of community leadership.

"There are no strong elders in the community," he said.

Police photos of Aurukun community unrest from the night.
Police photos of Aurukun community unrest from the night.

Mr Korkatain is unlikely to return to Aurukun.

Sources close to the CYLC have accused Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo of inaction following the riot.

"He was in mourning but he should have done something, he should have supported the community," a source said.

Mr Walpo said that despite his relation to the deceased man, he did not declare a conflict of interest after the death. He declined to comment further as Aurukun council was in "caretaker mode".

A council spokeswoman said Mr Korkatain was invited to attend the ordinary council meeting on March 17 "to discuss their concerns and how the community may positively move forward".

A Queensland Police spokesman said "the priority for police in violent confrontations is to de-escalate the situation while protecting the lives of everyone involved, including police officers".

"Police are working closely with community leaders, elders and partner agencies to maintain calm and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all community members," he said.


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