Families fight for justice

The Bowraville Murders – a sad indictment of past injustices

When three Aboriginal kids disappear from the small country town of Bowraville in New South Wales in 1990/91, the police do little about it.

This is despite the three disappearances all happening within a short time of each other, and the children’s remains and items of clothing all found scattered along the same, isolated country road.

Directed by award-winning journalist and Gomeroi man Allan Clarke, the Bowraville Murders is the story of 16-year-old Colleen Walker-Craig, four-year-old Evelyn Greenup, and 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux; who disappeared from the same Aboriginal mission within five months of each other.

The case becomes even more infamous when, after a botched police investigation, the prime suspect – a local white labourer – is acquitted of two of the murders.

Highlighting the inherent racism prevalent in the town, the movie is a time capsule of life in Bowraville at that time.

There is interesting footage of some of the media interviews done with Bowraville’s white residents at the time, and the majority seem to care little about what happened.

In the doco’, director Clarke also uses SBS TV presenter Stan Grant to great effect in describing the open racism and segregation of black and white that went on in the town at that time.

A good example was at the local movie theatre, where the whites could sit anywhere and enter through the front door, while the Aboriginals could only enter via a small side door and sit in the very front row of the theatre.

The Bowraville Murders is a vivid account of the struggle of the families of the murdered children to get justice and find the killer.

A ‘David v Goliath’ contest between the authorities and a group of humble but determined people; it is also a moving tribute to the extraordinary courage and bravery shown by the families and relatives.

Never giving up, they spent 30 years’ lobbying politicians and judges throughout NSW, before eventually getting the case reopened and reinvestigated.

One of the most poignant parts of the film is when a newly assigned, white police detective from the city arrives at the Mission, much to the suspicion of its inhabitants.

Yet in the following months, he gradually earns the respect and trust of the families he is trying to help, while uncovering many of the shocking inefficiencies and inadequacies of previous investigations.

The movie is a shocking condemnation of the indifference and disregard much of white Australia has shown to Aboriginal people over past years – and will hopefully serve as a ‘wakeup call’ to help change that and remove the stain of racism from this country.

The Bowraville Murders starts on September 2 at Luna Leederville.

By Mike Peeters


Families fight for justice
The Bowraville Murders – Families’ fight for injustice

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