Zachary Rolfe
Zachary Rolfe faces further questions when an inquest resumes into the death of Kumanjayi Walker. Image by Aaron Bunch/AAP PHOTOS
  • inquest

Walker inquest delayed as racist award saga continues

Neve Brissenden March 1, 2024

Answers about what happened the night an Indigenous teenager was fatally shot by a police officer will be further delayed as lawyers argue over the existence of a racist police award.

Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted being handcuffed while armed with a pair of scissors in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

Mr Rolfe was acquitted of murder at a five-week trial.

The coronial inquest, which has already spanned across 18 months, was due to wrap up on Friday.

But technical issues inside the court and legal squabbles forced the coroner to push the remaining evidence to May 27.

Two-and-a-half hours of Friday’s final inquest sitting day were lost due to technical issues with the live stream.

Zachary Rolfe.
 Zachary Rolfe’s lawyers aim to prove NT Police handed out a racist award at Christmas parties. Image by Rudi Maxwell/AAP PHOTOS 

Lawyers then spent much of the afternoon arguing over the legitimacy of “certificates” produced by Mr Rolfe, which aimed to prove Northern Territory Police handed out a racist award at former Christmas parties.

On Thursday morning, NT Police lawyer Ian Freckleton tendered four statements from senior officers in the Tactical Response Group who rejected the claims, saying no such award existed.

All four statements referenced the “Nugada” award, believed to be the award called out by Mr Rolfe.

They all said the word was “made up” and had no connection to Indigenous people.

“This award is presented to people who have displayed an outstanding lack of excellence in the area of personal hygiene or feral behaviour,” Superintendent Craig Garland said.

However, on Friday, Mr Rolfe’s lawyers came to court with certificates claiming to be from the recipients of the racist award.

“I believe my lawyers are in possession of a certificate for the award issued in 2013,” Mr Rolfe said.

“The officer I just mentioned was a member of, I believe … the canine unit in Darwin.

“He has passed on some certificates, one that he alleges he received in 2013 on invitation to this annual party.”

Mr Rolfe requested the identity of the officer not be released but wrote it on a piece of paper for the lawyers to see.

Dr Freckleton made a successful application to prevent the media publishing the images of the award until investigations took place, though descriptions were said to be “offensive” and include the Aboriginal flag.

Another unnamed former police officer emailed the coroner on Friday, allegedly corroborating Mr Rolfe’s story about the racist police award.

The former constable will return to Alice Springs to answer more questions about the night he shot Mr Walker on May 27.

“It is unfortunate there is a further delay but to rush it at this point would be a disservice to the work that has already been engaged in,” NT Coroner Elisabeth Armitage said on Friday.

“It has been a lengthy week, I thank you for the care and attention to detail that continues to be shown to the very important issues.”

Throughout the week Mr Rolfe has been repeatedly questioned about eight use-of-force incidents, a series of racist text messages and his declining mental health at the time of the shooting.

He also denied lying at the murder trial about whether Mr Walker’s hand was on his gun at the time of the shooting.