Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Nino Bucci

Kumanjayi Walker inquest: court releases mock certificates awarded by NT police unit

Zachary Rolfe departs the inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker at the Alice Springs Local Court, 26 February, 2024.
Zachary Rolfe departs the inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker at the Alice Springs local court, 26 February, 2024. Photograph: Rudi Maxwell/AAP

Certificates handed out by an elite Northern Territory police unit to its members have been released by a court, showing that the force used the Aboriginal flag and a digitally altered image of the sprinter Usain Bolt on the awards.

The NT coroners court released three certificates on Monday after a suppression order was lifted.

The certificates appear to have been awarded in 2012 and 2013 to members of the Territory Response Group (TRG), the NT police unit that responds to critical incidents.

Former NT police officer Zachary Rolfe told an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker last month that he believed a racist mock award had been bestowed by the TRG to the member who behaved most like an Aboriginal person.

He said the awards had an official name but they were commonly known as the “coon of the year” awards, and the winner was made to wear a toga and carry a wooden club.

The NT police are investigating the allegations, as well as other claims made by Rolfe about racism in the force.

Five current and former members of the TRG provided statements to the court that denied such an award existed.

Some of the members clarified to the court that there had been an award known as the Noogooda, Nugada or Nugeda award, with one saying that the name of the award had been changed in 2022 after the inquest started “as the TRG did not want the award to be misconstrued or associated with any racial issues”.

But the certificates released on Monday show that in 2013 a constable was given an award for “caution for a rape …….that’s all that needs to be said”, with the words printed on a certificate with a background of the Aboriginal flag.

Two certificates from 2012 were also released, one featuring an image of Bolt but with the head blacked out, and another featuring a woman in a bikini and a digitally altered image of a naked man.

These certificates were awarded for outstanding lack of excellence “in approaching a stronghold” and “in cooking sausages”.

The names of those who were awarded the certificates were removed.

Two of the certificates were for the “Nooguda” or “Nuggadah” award, and the other was for the “Sooty” award. According to statements provided to the court, Sooty was a nickname given to a TRG member who either previously electrocuted himself and separately accidentally covered himself in diesel soot, and not a reference to skin colour.

All five officers who provided statements – Mark Clemmens, Meachem King, Shaun Gill, Craig Garland and James Gray-Spence – denying the award was racist had been serving in the unit at the time the certificates were awarded, according to the information they provided in their statements.

The officers are all current high-ranking members, and include an acting assistant commissioner and the current officer in charge of the TRG.

The legitimacy of the certificates had been questioned by lawyers for the NT police force in court earlier this month after they were provided by Rolfe.

It is unclear if the court established the certificates were legitimate before they were released on Monday.

The inquest is expected to continue in May.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.