Hearts break as wronged families fight on
TEARS were shed on the floor of the NSW Legislative Council and in the public gallery as the Inquiry into the Family Response to the Murders in Bowraville's final report was tabled this week.
The report contains a raft of recommendations by the Law and Justice Committee designed to prevent the systemic racism and lack of cultural awareness which led to the families of the three murdered children - Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux - finding no justice and being failed by initial investigations into the trio's disappearance 23 years ago.
The recommendations, if adopted, may also open the door for the murder case to be re-tried.
As the report was tabled and MLCs spoke on its importance and the long struggle which led to the hearings, family and friends of the children watched on, moved to tears by the words of compassion from the speakers.
Committee members described the process of hearing from the families as transformative and particular focus was given to the perseverance of the families and Greens MLC David Shoebridge in making the inquiry possible.
Law and Justice Committee chairman, David Clarke MLC, said hearings and deliberations gave members some insight into the pain and frustration felt by the families and the Bowraville community during the police investigation and criminal trial.
"While it was clear to the committee that the families sought only justice, the terms of reference for this inquiry established clear parameters within which the committee could carry out its deliberations," Mr Clarke said.
"We have done the very best we can within these parameters to formulate findings and recommendations within the terms of reference imposed."
Key recommendations include looking into changes to the definition of the word "adduced" in Section 102 of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001, which could change the way any application for re-trial is interpreted, and that any review be performed by a retired senior judge or senior prosecutor from another jurisdiction.
"It is important to point out that this inquiry was not a murder investigation and the committee has not sought to comment on the decisions made by the Attorney-General or the police," Mr Clarke said.
"However, as one of the key issues raised in evidence related to the definition of the word 'adduced' within Section 102 of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001, the committee has recommended that the NSW Government review that section of the act to clarify the definition."
The committee hopes to address increased cultural awareness by having NSW Police implement staffing and training changes, providing enhanced access to Aboriginal Witness Assistance Services, implementation of Aboriginal cultural awareness training for legal practitioners, members of Parliament and parliamentary staff; and the judiciary's use of jury directions regarding cultural and linguistic factors.
If adopted, the recommendations would increase health services for Bowraville and Tenterfield and beautify and maintain the memorial to the children.