BY MILES PROUST
30 years after the murders of three Indigenous children in Bowraville NSW, a new documentary will shed light on police misconduct, racism and the families’ continued fight for justice.
Directed by Allan Clarke, a Muruwari journalist and filmmaker, The Bowraville Murders tells the stories of Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, who all went missing over a five-month period in 1990-1991.
Commissioned by SBS and set for release next year, the documentary aims to spark conversation about the treatment of Indigenous Australians by the justice system after a flawed police investigation into the disappearance of the children.
“The biggest motivator for us, is for this to lead to substantial change within the judicial system and its treatment of Aboriginal victims of crime,” Mr Clarke said.
The documentary has so far followed the case through the legal system, with filming set to return to Bowraville in September to speak to the victims’ families.
“We hope that these families are able to get a platform to freely tell their story and [it] leads to some kind of evolution in their journey for justice,” Mr Clarke said.
“It’s a very confronting film but it’s a conversation we need to have.”
During the initial investigation, family members said police claimed Clinton had ‘gone walkabout’ and it was not until early 1991 that Clinton and Evelyn’s remains were discovered in bushland outside Bowraville.
The time delay weakened the case against the prime suspect, a 25-year-old white man. He was charged for Clinton’s murder in 1994 but was acquitted.
12 years later, the same man was charged for Evelyn’s murder, but was once again cleared of the charges.
Mr Clarke said the case is a reminder of the different treatment experienced by Indigenous and non-Indigenous victims of crime.
“I realised just how epic their [family] battle for justice has been, the emotional toll, the psychological toll to try to get some sort of justice for their children,” Mr Clarke said.
“It’s such an important story for the rest of the country to hear about how Aboriginal lives don’t really matter within our institutions of power.”
In 2014, Clinton’s sister-in-law Delphine Charles addressed a standing committee on the murders and subsequent inadequate police response.
“They didn’t care because he was black. We see other kids go missing and their disappearances are taken seriously,” she told the Standing Committee on Law and Justice.
A reward for the Bowraville case was not posted until 1995 when NSW police offered $50,000 for information about Colleen’s murder.
Selected for commission by SBS in partnership with Documentary Australia Foundation, The Bowraville Murders was partly crowdfunded through a campaign that raised more than $113,000 – exceeding its initial goal by $10,000.
Mr Clarke said the extra money will be used to bring the families to the Sydney premiere in 2021.
“The best thing to do is to invest, whether that’s financially, or lending their support to local Aboriginal organisations that are driving change,” Mr Clarke said.
“There’s a wealth of Aboriginal journalists, filmmakers and authors who’ve created incredibly important work.”
You can support the film and find out more here.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service: https://vals.org.au/volunteers/get-involved/donate-vals/
NSW Aboriginal Legal Service: https://www.alsnswact.org.au/donate