Half shot or full drunk?

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Evidence in this week’s committal hearing of charges against Liam Jurrah, Christopher Walker and Josiah Fry, painted yet again a picture of Alice Springs town camps awash with alcohol, even though drinking is supposed to be banned there. When the grog wasn’t being consumed in the camps, it was being drunk “down the creek”, where drinking is also supposed to be banned.

There was no suggestion that this day – March 7, 2012 – was special. It was a Wednesday. Only one witness (Allan Collins) said it was his pension day.

For one man, drinking started before noon; for most of the others, it began mid-afternoon, after the take-aways opened.

When the fighting broke out that night, many of the witnesses, some of them victims, assessed themselves as being “half shot”.

The evidence of two women, who were sober, reveals that there were children present. Frida Jurrah’s  statement to police gave evidence of a little boy being present during the fighting, urging her to leave: “Grandmother go away, you only old woman, go away.”

Philomena White said in court that when the second lot of fighting erupted she “ran inside [House 1] with the kids”.

The following summarises the evidence of each witness in relation to alcohol consumed on the day. Nothing was heard in court about alcohol consumed by the accused, if any.

 

Witness 1, Allan Collins: He drank three cans of VB from a carton he bought to share with family at Hidden Valley Town Camp where he arrived in the evening. In his estimation his companions who would go with him to Little Sisters were “half shot”, while the Little Sisters ‘mob’ were “full drunk”.

 

Witness 2, Esau Marshall: He started with a six pack earlier in the day; in the evening he helped consume the carton bought by Mr Collins. He was “half shot”.

 

Witness 3, Samuel White, alleged victim of an aggravated assault: He started drinking about 3pm, in the creek with family. He bought two 30-can cartons of VB from the Heavitree Gap store. He estimated  10 or 12 people were sharing them, men and women. He agreed he was “charged up” but not “full drunk”: “I was alright, feeling drunk, that’s all.”

The drinking continued around the campfire back at Little Sisters Town Camp, another 30-can carton of VB, bought by Lemiah Woods. Mr White said some of the family members present “don’t drink” but agreed it was fair to say that, like him, Ingrid White, Daphne White, and Lemiah Woods were all drunk.

 

Witness 4, Frida Jurrah, mother of Samuel White: There were no questions put to her about drinking. She is one of the family members described by Mr White as those who “don’t drink”.

 

Witness 5, Ingrid White, alleged victim of an aggravated assault: She started drinking at Little Sisters from around 2pm, from the cartons bought by Mr White. The group she was with was still drinking when the fight happened. She couldn’t remember how drunk she might have been.

 

Witness 6, Philomena White, daughter of Ingrid White: She had nothing to drink.  She described Basil Jurrah as “full drunk”.

 

Witness 7, Basil Jurrah, alleged victim of an assault causing serious harm: He agreed to a question from the prosecutor that he was drunk when he arrived at Little Sisters. Under cross-examination he said that he had started drinking before midday at the Todd Tavern. Then he got take-away and continued drinking “down the creek” near the tavern with “families”, though he couldn’t remember who.

From there he took a taxi to Hidden Valley. He arrived about 3pm, went to an aunty’s house and continued drinking. There were other men drinking with him but again, he couldn’t remember who. He went to Little Sisters to continue to drink, for “smoke and grog”. He agreed that he was drunk when the fight occurred during which he was injured, specifying through the court interpreter that he was “half shot”.

 

Witness 8, Daphne White: She had started drinking in the afternoon, after 2pm when the take-away opened. The grog was bought by a family member from Todd Tavern drive-through. She was drinking VB  from what she said were two 24-can cartons as well as rum (one bottle) mixed with Coke. Later with family she bought another bottle of rum and some food from Heavitree Gap store. She agreed that she was drunk when the fight happened.

 

Witness 9, Lemiah Woods, alleged victim of an aggravated assault: He agreed that he was drinking before the fight, a “couple of cans”. He said he started drinking at 3pm and the fight began around 8pm. He was drinking first in the creek and later at the camp. The quantity was challenged under further cross-examination, when a “couple” of cans translated into “maybe six or seven” and a bit of rum. He assessed himself as “a little bit drunk” and later, “half shot”.

 

Witness 10, Douglas Watson: He started drinking in the creek from 2pm. He continued drinking at Hidden Valley from around 8pm.

 

Witness 11, James Turner: There were no questions put to this witness about drinking.

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Hal Duell
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 1:28 am

    “a little bit drunk” “half shot” “full drunk”
    Why do I love this town? Why would I feel like a refugee if I had to live anywhere else?
    Think about it. Is there another jurisdiction anywhere in the world where the three categories of alcohol impairment quoted above could be used in a court of law?
    And used not just by those in the dock whether there as witnesses, accused or defendants, but also used by their lawyers.
    QCs no less.
    A journalist covering this story in the national press stated that while Yuendumu is sometimes home to as many as 1000 residents, when the wet season sets in, many go to Adelaide.
    “a little bit drunk” “half shot” “full drunk” and a wet season in Yuendumu.
    Seriously, I do simply love this shit.
    What really happened out at the Little Sisters camp?
    From the sounds of it, not much.
    From the sounds of it, just another night-time in a town like Alice.

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  2. Russell Guy
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    This story has been up for five hours and nobody has posted anything. I’m feeling suitably morose, which is a soulful kind of feeling, so I’m gonna dip my thumbnail in tar.
    As you say, Erwin, these days it takes minutes for the press to scoop a story online and I’ve read this story twice over the last few hours. I thought I’d record my initial feeling at reading it, while I’m up for it. I found it nauseating, a polite way of saying that it churned my guts.
    I’ve been advised by a good friend to “pick my battles” and I’ve been committed to fighting for alcohol reform in Alice, mostly in these pages, these last six months, but the more I read, the more I see, the more I hear, the less I believe in Australia’s future, much less that of Alice Springs.
    I heard today that from Katherine north, some caravan parks are chockers at $60 per night for a powered site, $48 unpowered. Where I work, I charged a Swiss couple with two young boys $24 total for a powered site last night, but I digress from the alcohol-related story about life in Alice.
    One of our major poets, Banjo Patterson, wrote in 1889 “And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street … and the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me as they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste, with their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy, for townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.”
    I sometimes wonder what Banjo would think if he could sit and view Alice Springs these days with those who have the dubious time to carry 30 can VB packs around the streets and I’m not saying it’s entirely their choice either, when the take-away outlets open at 2pm weekdays, 10am Saturdays and noon on what used to be a Christian nation’s Sabbath.
    Yesterday, I was talking with an elderly chap who once worked on Kurundi Station, now retired to Adelaide. When I said “I bet you notice some changes,” he looked quite ashen, dropped his head and made excuses to leave. I was far too upbeat, but his grand daughter caught my eye with complete understanding.
    Little Sisters’ town camp has been peppered with Jurrah-type incidents for the past thirty years of my experience and from working in it during the 1980s, I knew many of its residents who have been killed by grog-related violence there, or by crossing the road.
    Recently, I heard of an intoxicated woman holding up her hand to stop the Ghan in its tracks there. I find that poetic and pathetic and symbolic of the soul of Australia in the 21st century.

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  3. Daz
    Posted July 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Sad isn’t it. Even sadder still – the fact that most, if not all who live here, know this is not an isolated incident. If it was not for one of the participants being an AFL player we may not of even heard about it.

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