Chief Justice condemns ongoing revenge attacks at Yuendumu

‘Tit for tat violence without any traditional aspect’; offender without remorse.

 

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Chief Justice Trevor Riley (at left) has condemned the ongoing revenge attacks at Yuendumu as he sentenced yesterday a 25 year old man from the community for offences in July.

 

Elton Granites pleaded guilty to causing damage to a motor vehicle using fire and going armed in public with an axe and a steel bar in such a manner as to cause fear to people. He was sentenced to a total of two years and six months with a non-parole period of 20 months.

 

Sitting in the Supreme Court in Alice Springs, the Chief Justice said: “The offending occurred against a background of community disruption in Yuendumu.  The disruption has lasted since 2010 and started with a young man being killed in a fight.  It seems the community is divided into two camps,  being west camp and south camp.

 

“Since 2010 there have been numerous incidents between the two groups.  This, it seems to me, is tit for tat violence.  It is not suggested that there is any traditional aspect to it, but rather, it consists of revenge attacks for things that have gone before.

 

“The situation got so bad at one point that one group spent some time in Adelaide, escaping from the community violence.  That situation was given extensive media coverage throughout Australia and raised concerns around Australia as to what was happening in Yuendumu.  Unfortunately it seems the problem continues.

 

“There have been numerous violent incidents between the disputing parties.  People have been injured.  People have been displaced.  People have gone to gaol and yet it goes on.  Efforts made from outside the community appear not to have had any success in resolving the issues.  I understand some efforts have been made to bring reconciliation to the community.  I do not know what stage those efforts have reached, but it is apparent that at the time that you acted as you did, they were not working.

 

“I think it is primarily for the community itself to come together and call an end to the violence, however, I encourage those who appear before me and those who have been endeavouring to effect reconciliation in the community to do so with increased vigour.  Until there is some resolution, people will continue to be hurt, property will continue to be destroyed, and people, such as yourself, will continue to go to gaol.”

 

Mr Granites is from south camp at Yuendumu. On 14 July he was with others also armed with nulla nullas, steel bars and axes approaching west camp. Police formed a line to try to prevent the south camp group from entering west camp but in face of aggression by the south group police “disengaged and fell back”. People in west camp fled.

 

West camp’s Toyota bus was nearby. Mr Granites later told police. “I hate that bus”. The Chief Justice said Mr Granites saw it as a symbol of the “privilege” of west camp. He boarded the bus and drove it to in front of an elder’s house at west camp. His intention was to damage it there, but someone else took over, the bus was driven “in a dangerous manner” around the community and through a humpie in west camp, with the occupants fleeing on approach.

 

Said the Chief Justice: “At this time you had your 12 year old nephew sitting on your lap.  You were acting as a most unfortunate role model for that young person.  What hope has he got?”

 

The bus was also driven through a children’s playground and later into a ditch where it was set on fire by the group and completely destroyed.

 

Said the Chief Justice: “It seems, from what I have been told, that you have expressed no remorse.  You have not expressed any intention to change your ways.  You have not expressed any intention to seek reconciliation with other members of your community.”

 

Mr Granites has a criminal history which started in 2005. He would have been 18 at the time. He has done time in gaol on a number of occasions, including seven month sentences for assaulting a member of the police force in two separate incidents.

 

His personal history includes the tragedy of his mother dying at the hands of his father. He went to school in Alice to Year Eight and has worked as a CDEP labourer. He has expressed a wish to work in the mines. “There is some prospect that you will do so,” said the Chief Justice. “In all of the circumstances, I think that you are not without prospects for rehabilitation, but unless you act upon the opportunities that have been given to you, I am concerned that you will reoffend and possibly reoffend in a similar way to what has occurred on this occasion.”

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