NOONGAR elder Herbert Bropho says the dire relationship between WA police and Aboriginal people is to blame for the death of two teenagers who drowned in the Swan River on Monday.
Just after 3pm, two policemen pursued five boys on foot after reports of them jumping fences nearby Tranby and Clarkson Roads in Maylands, with four of the teens fleeing into the river.
Two were rescued from the riverbank but police failed to reach the other two, Trisjack Simpson and Christopher Drage, who drowned.
The fifth boy was reported missing, but later found safe on Tuesday with relatives.
Mr Bropho blames the WA police for the deaths.
“As indigenous people, all our lives we’ve been running from the police,” he told the Voice.
“Them kids would have feared the police and the first thing would have been to run.
“You know when the police are chasing you, you’ve got to run for your life because the WA police see only the colour of our skin, it doesn’t matter where we go, we seem to be the target all the time.”
Mr Bropho said he’d heard the police “stood and watched” the boys die.
“If it was a white kid out there drowning [the police] would have jumped in and saved [them].”
But WA police commissioner Chris Dawson said Tactical Response Group officers were quickly on the scene and entered the water to try rescuing the boys. Water Police weren’t far behind.
It is unknown whether the original two policemen entered the water, and Mr Dawson wasn’t clear on the timeframe of events, saying he didn’t “have the exact facts” and “the investigation should be allowed to continue”.
“My condolences and those of all police go to the family and friends of the boys at this trying time, this is nothing short of a tragedy,” he said.
Nearby Maylands resident Donna Schultz says the boys were “just kids being kids”.
“I live in a block of flats and white kids jump fences all the time; it’s nothing to be alarmed about.
“They never have the police called on them and they are never chased and cornered into a river,” she said.
Ms Schultz’s neighbour Tracey Neave said as a young girl she’d jumped the odd fence to nick a bit of fruit off a tree, so she wasn’t worried about the youngsters that come into her yard, other than to warn them about the threat of her dog.
“My love goes to the family of that little one that drowned; that is sad and heartbreaking,” Ms Neave posted on Facebook.
WAToday reported Trisjack’s grandfather James Spratt saying he refused to blame police.
The deaths will be treated as deaths in police presence and the matter will go before the state coroner.
By MOLLY SCHMIDT
IT’S been a rough week for Aboriginal people in Perth on social media, with this week’s events unleashing a torrent of vile commentary.
Far from being mournful, some hoped missing boys would also turn up dead.
“Do the crime do the time. More should be put to death deliberately not accidently [sic],” wrote one Facebook user under the fake name “Uckfay Ouyay”, though earlier posts revealed his true identity.
“At least we will save tax dollars housing them later in life,” wrote Ben Sheiles, who proudly posts images of his young daughter.
“2 found one still missing will we get the trifecta?” he later posted.
John James, whose profile boasts that he “Went to School of Hard Knocks, The University of Life,” and whose profile pictures feature a young son, wrote the boys were “Just cooling off after a crime spree.”
In the wake of so much digital abuse, Aboriginal entertainer Phil Walleystack penned this message which he was happy for us to republish here:
“To our Aboriginal/Nyoongar community, Please don’t let the comments on the media reports about the young fullas who’ve passed away get to you, these trolls opinions don’t mean shit! We can never change a grown adults childish thoughts about their uneducated views to our Aboriginal people, These trolls do not give a shit and don’t have a clue what’s happening in our West Australia community, They wait for media reports about anybody and anything black or white, than go fishing for a reaction to their uneducated immature self centered comments, they have no heart, no compassion and probably live a very sad lonely life, when we (Aboriginal people) see news reports about non Aboriginal people, we don’t comment about that persons race, life style or gender, Because WE, Aboriginals, have family that love us, we have a heart, we have compassion, we have respect for the dead and we have love for one another, stay strong my people and don’t let these trolls effect your heart! PWS.”
by DAVID BELL