WARNING: This story contains the name of an Aboriginal person who has passed away.
The coroner presiding over an inquest into the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker will decide whether or not she will recuse herself from the case by the end of the week, after former NT Police officer Zachary Rolfe filed an application against her.
Regardless of the outcome it’s expected the application will delay proceedings, pushing back the day Mr Rolfe will be forced to give evidence.
Mr Rolfe shot Mr Walker three times while on duty at the remote community of Yuendumu in 2019.
He was acquitted of murder after a five-week trial last year.
Mr Rolfe has applied for NT Coroner Elisabeth Armitage to step away from the inquest given her conduct during a visit to Yuendumu, where she did not reject calls from Warlpiri elders to spear Mr Rolfe as punishment for Mr Walker’s death, allegedly had her face painted by Mr Walker’s mother, and that counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer, held the hand of an elder.
In a submission released last week, NT Police Lawyer Ian Freckleton, said the coroner should have ignored the application.
“The inquest should proceed without further distraction in relation to peripheral and groundless aggrievements so that it can be brought to a conclusion without additional delay, trauma for the family members of Kumanjayi Walker and expense for the Northern Territory.”
A submission from Julian McMahon and Conor O’Bryan, on behalf of the Parumpurru committee of the Yuendumu community says the coroner’s conduct was appropriate.
“Far from being a cause for concern, the conduct of the coroner in visiting Yuendumu is exemplary of how a remote Aboriginal community should be engaged following the death of an Aboriginal person in custody.
The death of Kumanjayi Walker occurred in a complex cultural setting, leaving a community in grief, anger and bewilderment.
The actions of the coroner in respectfully visiting Yuendumu to listen to Warlpiri people talk to their culture is of great utility.
The actions of the coroner and counsel assisting were nuanced, culturally informed and courteous.”
Mr Rolfe’s lawyers are expected to respond to the submissions today.