Bowraville Families Still Waiting For Response To Parliamentary Inquiry


Late last year, politicians of all stripes came together on an emotional and apolitical day in NSW Parliament, to table a report calling for justice for the families of three Aboriginal children murdered on the NSW mid north coast more than two decades ago.

Three months on, the NSW Greens are calling on all parties to commit to implementing the recommendations of the report which, after a series of knockbacks, is seen as the last chance to get the man accused of the crimes back on the stand.

In a few months between 1990 and 1991, Colleen Walker Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy Duroux, went missing from the same road on Bowraville mission.

There has only ever been one man accused of the crimes – a non-Indigenous man – who was acquitted of Clinton and Evelyn’s murder in two separate trials. Colleen has never been found.

The families have always maintained the three trials should be combined into one, because of the striking similarities between the cases.

In 1993, a Supreme Court judge ruled against linking the trials of Clinton and Evelyn, meaning key evidence was omitted. The man charged was subsequently acquitted of Clinton’s murder.

But the families have never tired in their two-decade long fight to get the man before court.

In 2006, the families succeeded in having the state’s double jeopardy laws overturned – a potential world first.

But the former state Attorneys General John Hatzistergos and Greg Smith both rejected calls to reopen the trial after the families lodged applications which produced “fresh and compelling” evidence.

After Mr Smith knocked back their application to send the evidence back to the Court of Criminal Appeal, the families protested outside state Parliament House and achieved a small victory representing one last shot of justice – a parliamentary inquiry into the family response from the murders.

The inquiry culminated in an emotional day at state Parliament just before its last sittings in the lead up to the March election.

It was a rare day which saw a conservative stalwart, Liberal MP David Clarke, shed tears alongside Greens MLC David Shoebridge, all members unanimous in their advocacy for justice for the grieving families – who stretch from Bowraville, to Tenterfield to Sawtell and even into Queensland.

The committee handed down 15 recommendations which were all supported. Two recommendations are designed to remove the roadblocks that have prevented the accused man from being re-charged with the murders of the three children.

The inquiry called on the NSW government to review section 102 of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001 to define the term ‘adduced’ or ‘admitted’ with “the merit of expressly broadening the scope of the provision to enable a retrial where a change in law renders evidence admissible at a later date”.

The other recommendation was that the NSW government ensure an independent assessor consider any new application for a retrial submitted to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions or Attorney General.

Three months on, the families are still waiting for a response.

Greens MLA David Shoebridge this month launched an online petition calling on both parties to commit to implementing the full recommendations of the report.

“Last year I saw how politics can deliver for people, when MPs from all sides of politics joined together to recommend justice for the Bowraville murders,” the petition reads.

“Almost a quarter of a century ago three Aboriginal children, Colleen Walker, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup, were murdered in Bowraville and their killer still walks free.

“The circumstances surrounding the three children’s murders have striking similarities, however the legal system has prevented all the murders being tried together. This has meant crucial evidence is missing from each trial and justice has not been done.”

Mr Shoebridge says legal change has to happen for “justice to be given a chance”.

“I believe that a quarter of a century is too long to wait for justice for the Bowraville murders.

“Whether you’re an MP, or you want to be an MP, you’re a mum, dad, uncle or grandparent, this is an issue that should unite us all.

“It was so heartening to see politicians from the Coalition, Labor, the Greens, the CDP and Shooters parties all support the committee’s work last year. However it is now time to turn those words into law.

“I am committed to doing everything in my power, within parliament and without, to immediately implement the unanimous Bowraville recommendations.

“I call on you to do the same.

To sign the petition, click here.

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.