Ryheem Davey. Photo: Department for Child Protection and Family Support
It was with relief I read the news that three young Aboriginal boys; Desmond Narrier, Clive Hart, and Ryheem Davey; had finally been found after going missing eleven days beforehand. There were many items of this case that deeply concerned me when I first heard about it. Naturally, I was worried about the families and the communities of these boys and how bad news would affect them. I was concerned because it was noted that one of the boys required medical care.
Most of all though, I was concerned because despite the boys being reported to police as missing allegedly 30 mins after they had gone, it took another week for the news to make the newspapers following a call from the police for information from the public.
One week. Granted, I don't know the intricacies of this case and the dynamics at play here regarding these boys and their situation. There are probably very good reasons why it took several days for a public appeal to be launched. Even then, when the call for public information was made, the coverage was so limited that I couldn't recall the boys names, much less any intricacies of the case that may have assisted. Unfortunately, when it comes to the disappearance of Aboriginal children, there have been many examples of public and authority disinterest and neglect. Due to this, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that it was yet another case of people just not caring enough.
Missing child Clive Hart, 12. Photo: Department for Child Protection and Family Support
Take for example, the case of Kieffen Raggatt in Borroloola, Northern Territory. A beautiful, eight year-old boy who went missing from his home in the small remote community and whose body was found two days later in a waterhole. I first heard of his case in 2012; five years after Kieffen's body was found; because despite a damning report on the police investigation into his death being released by the Northern Territory Coroner's Office, no advances had been made 12 months later in the case. Kieffen was found with multiple large rocks stuffed into his pants as if someone had made an attempt to hide his body by submerging it in the waterhole. His head showed signs of trauma. Despite this, investigating police had not only labelled his death an "accident", but they repeatedly ignored and destroyed evidence, and of the evidence they did consider, they manipulated it to fit their summation of "accidental". The lack of care and regard shown for the life of this young person was simply heinous. Now eight years later, a crime goes unanswered and it is possible that a killer is still at large.
Or what about the three children who went missing near Bowraville during 1990 and 1991? When 16 year old Colleen Walker first went missing in September 1990, it was assumed by police that she had run away to Sydney. Indeed, the family of Colleen remembers being told by police that perhaps she had just gone "walkabout" .
Eventually though, after discovering the remains of the two children who went missing from the same community in the months that followed; Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux; Colleen's clothes were found weighted-down in the Nambucca River. A suspect was identified following a witness report of the night Clinton went missing but has twice been brought to trial, then acquitted, for the murders of Clinton and Evelyn separately. For over twenty years, the families argued that because these murders had not been tried together, as the work of a serial killer, crucial evidence against the suspect was discounted or ignored. It was only in November last year when the NSW Upper House pushed for a retrial following an Inquiry.
Desmond Narrier. Photo: Department for Child Protection and Family Support
We all know who Madeleine McCann is, despite the fact that this was a disappearance that happened halfway across the world. Daniel Morcombe is rightly a household name in this country. But what of Keiffen and the Bowraville three? Why were the investigations of their disappearances conducted so poorly? Why was evidence allowed to be discarded or neglected in the first place? Why don't a good portion of Australians know their names and why aren't they joining the call for justice?
I am incredibly thankful that Desmond, Clive and Ryheem have been located and are all safe and well. I am left wondering though, considering other cases where Aboriginal children go missing, whether these names would have slipped the notice of the general public and whether their disappearances would have been properly examined had this not been the case.
Certainly, previous cases leave me cynical. Aboriginal children matter and the calls for justice in this country should resonate loudly, otherwise how far have we truly come when it comes to valuing Aboriginal lives?