Yamatji First Nation members gathered in front of Geraldton police station on September 18 to vent their outrage and grief over the death of 29-year-old sister Joyce Clarke, who was shot dead the night before by a police officer on the outskirts of the town.
Among the gathered were elders of the community, close friends and family of the deceased sister, all wanting to know what was going to be done about the murder of a young woman who was known as a happy-go-lucky sister incapable of hurting a fly.
The snap action was organised by local Yamatji woman, artist and academic Charmaine Green, to get across to the town that the Western Australia Police Force are not our friends. They do not have our best interests at heart and the sooner this situation goes away, the better for them.
Like so many other incidents between the police and First Nation community where death has resulted, the police officers involved will be investigated by the police force and found to have done nothing wrong.
History has shown that the police will kill and move on with their lives, as if the death of a Yamatji person is akin to killing an animal.
Sister Joyce had recently been released from prison. She was poverty stricken and unable to navigate society, like many other young women in her shoes.
She came from a demographic that is seen as a scourge on society, a waste of space that should be hidden — something, I believe, that made it so much easier for the cop to pull that trigger.
First Nation women are seen as sub-human. We are stereotyped, made to be seen as animals, dirty “gins” who are only good for sex. Stereotypes about First Nations women make it easier or justifiable for the white man to hurt or kill us.
In this case, it helped a cop put a bullet through a woman without a second thought.
Joyce’s murder has shocked and caused much grief and anger among our mob. We all know that it could have been anyone of us, or a family member or friend.
Not only do we sisters have to navigate and try to stay alive amid our own culture due to intergenerational trauma (something the WA Police Force has historically played a big part in), and the white man looking down at us in disgust, but we also have to have faith that we will not get killed by a police officer when we come in contact with them.
We need systems in place so that we come out of that contact safe and alive. The very people who are supposed to protect us, instead hurt and kill us on our own land.
Joyce’s murder will be investigated by the police and, as always, the findings will come out in favour of the police.
There are already stories floating around about the murdering officer and his wife being traumatised. This was told to the protest gathering, as if it made up for the death of an innocent woman.
What about her family, her son? They will be traumatised for the rest of their lives.
This death needs to be investigated by a non-biased independent group that has nothing to gain from the outcome. When is this going to start happening? When are the police going to be investigated like the murderers that they are?
Rest in peace sister. I really hope the outcome of the investigation comes out in favour of you, but until I see it happen, I do not believe it will.
[Deborah Green is a Yamatji woman and writer. A campaign has been set up to raise funds for Joyce Clarke's funeral. To donate go to gofundme.com/f/joyce-clarkes-funeral.]