Original Elders Call to Action – Karno Walker, a Ramindjeri Elder has issued an URGENT call for Humanitarian AID in the form of drinking WATER and FOOD to ALL Islands of the North and South Pacific, including but not limited to the Polynesian Islands. “There has been a deliberate blockade of food and water to the peoples of these sovereign nations and they need urgent humanitarian help now”, says Karno Walker.
24th June 2014
Co-Founder of Wake Up World
On 23rd March 2013, Australia’s disgraceful track-record in ‘Aboriginal relations’ reached a new low as police arrested and charged Ramindjeri Elder and senior Original Law man Lance ‘Karno’ Walker following an impassioned interjection in the South Australian parliament during debate over the SA ‘Aboriginal recognition’ Amendment Bill. He was charged with interrupting a public meeting, disorderly behaviour, failing to cease to loiter, resisting police and property damage.
What transpired within the walls of the SA Parliament House that day certainly beg questions of the SA Police. But the implications of Karno Walker’s story go much deeper; the political context of these events call into question the standing of Australia’s Governments in state, federal and international law, and the validity of the Commonwealth Government itself.
This article will examine in detail the events of Mr. Walker’s arrest as well as the legal and constitutional challenges surrounding it.
Please note: The word ‘Aboriginal’ is used in this article only in direct quotations of persons or legislations. In the English language, the prefix ‘Ab’ negates the adjective it precedes – eg. abnormal (not normal) and absent (not present). Therefore, the word ‘Aboriginal’ can be defined as ‘not original’ and although it is commonly used, I prefer the more accurate (and respectful) word ‘Original’.
Along with two other Ramindjeri Elders, Mr. Walker was a guest of the parliament, in attendance for the reading of a statement for the Original Tribal Peoples of Australia. The Weatherill government had called on Tribal Elders to attend parliament in relation to their inclusion in the State constitution, and several Original leaders, including Mr. Walker, accepted the invitation to contribute. Their statement was delivered to the parliament by Ann Bressington, Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) as part of the Bill’s passage through state parliament.
Mr. Walker interjected in parliamentary discussion after a parliamentary official incorrectly acknowledged the Kaurna people as the Original tribal people of the land the parliament resides on. According to Mr. Walker, “it is Ramindjeri country and always will be”.
Karno Walker elaborates:
“I was representing the Ramindjeri peoples who are members of the OSTF, and I am the Chairperson and spokesperson for Ramindjeri Heritage Association Inc…. It was at the invitation of Gunham Badi Jakamarra, Convenor of the Original Sovereign Tribes Federation (OSTF) to witness the reading of a Statement for the Sovereign People of Australia, which was going to be read by Ann Bressington… she acknowledged myself and my two Elders as Ramindjeri leaders.
“A male speaker then took his turn to give his speech; he… kept acknowledging the Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri people as custodians of the land we are standing on. I was shocked and outraged by this acknowledgement… Even though we [the Ramindjeri] have done everything to the demands of the Federal Native Title Court and had to prove our unbroken bloodline… they are still continuing to recognize the people who do not belong here… who has not yet proven the ties or blood line to Ramindjeri land which they are claiming in their Native Title claim…
“I remember being asked to sit down twice before being asked to leave. I refused… as this is a place to talk and be heard. I wanted to finish what I was saying as it was very important to me and my people, and wanted it down on record. I am very passionate and committed to proving this is Ramindjeri country for my people who do not get a voice. This is Ramindjeri country that we are on – our country, not Kaurna or Ngarrindjeri. That’s why it angers me so much…This is why I spoke out”
Following his interjection, parliament was suspended. Mr. Walker left the parliament chambers with parliamentary official Chris Schwartz and Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) Security staff. He was subsequently arrested by South Australian Police.
Mainstream media reports of the events that followed Mr. Walker’s arrest were few and far between. Amid the relative media silence, an SBS News report on the passing of the South Australian Amendment Bill described:
“…an outburst from the public gallery, with Aboriginal (sic) activist Karno Walker decrying the entire procedure as a sham… The outspoken Ramindjeri man’s refusal to leave saw matters adjourned while the chamber was cleared and he was arrested.”
While this description is vague at best, an affidavit provided by Karno Walker reveals further details of the day’s events. Mr. Walker claims he had willingly exited the parliament after the chambers were cleared, and stood speaking with officials and Security staff when was confronted by police officers.
“Security approached me… The Hon. John Gazzola then adjourned the proceedings and asked everyone to leave. Security remained standing with me, observing the people leaving. I was then approached by Chris Schwartz, now known to me as the Black Rod, who asked me to leave with him. At this time I was talking to two members of parliament who were still there after everyone else had left..
“I then agreed to walk downstairs with the Black Rod, we chatted all the way down stairs. We walked past members of the Kaurna and other community members. One member of the Kaurna community, Mr. Tauto Sansbury, commented “I agree with you brother” as we walked past him. “I was then standing talking to the Black Rod, telling him some Dreaming stories and discussing the meaning of Wirritjin – meaning black fellow and white fellow coming together and working together as one…
“Next thing I know… I was approached from behind and grabbed on my left arm around my elbow area. Not knowing who this was I pulled my arm away and raised it in the air. I turned to see three police officers there; they at no time identified themselves prior to grabbing me. By this time I realized they were there to arrest me. I said to them “you have no right to arrest me here”.
“One officer said I was disturbing the peace, another officer said I was failing to cease to loiter. At this point I turned away to say goodbye to the Black Rod and the next thing I remember is lying flat on my back, thrown down by 3 police officers in the centre of the hall… Two other police officers came to assist the 3 already present. I was then forcibly rolled onto my stomach, slamming my face into the marble flood and levered my right arm (which had been caught underneath me) out with a baton so they could handcuff me. This caused tremendous pain. I was then handcuffed.
“[Police] were instructing people… to stop filming this event inside Parliament House.”
A statement made by witness and then-Member for the SA Legislative Council, Ann Bressington, corroborates Mr. Walker’s account.
“Sitting of parliament was suspended at 5:05pm because Karno was interjecting from the gallery during the debate, voicing his opposition…
“I went upstairs to the gallery to walk downstairs with Karno. The Black Rod and a security guard were speaking with Karno and were preparing to escort him to Centre Hall. I walked down with them.
“Karno… was not abusive or aggressive. He was speaking with the Black Rod in Centre Hall. I went outside to wait for him and immediately 4 or 5 police officers arrived.
“A security guard came outside and said to the police “It’s OK, he is ready to leave. We don’t need your assistance”.
“The Police officer responded “We’d rather just go in and rip him out now”.
“The police went inside and I followed. I witnessed the police officers walk up to Karno from behind and grab his arms. Karno swung around and the police officers then threw him to the ground… I did not hear the police officers identify themselves as police officers.” [emphasis added]
Karno Walker was arrested by 5 police officers, taken to the City Watch House, charged and subsequently granted bail. Mr. Walker continues the story:
“I was then dragged backwards outside, down the steps of Parliament House in to the public. [My wife] asked one officer… what was going on [and] he told her to “F*** off, this has nothing to do with you”…
“Just before crossing Station St., both Police Officers Reed and Devlin threatened me saying they were going to bash me once we arrived at City Watch House… I was interviewed some time after by the arresting officers; this interview was both recorded and videod.”
Records of a medical examination conducted on Mr. Walker in the days following his arrest include details of “bruising on his left elbow… elbow pain and swelling… a graze on the bridge of his nose… some restriction of movement of neck… He has back pain… He has a loose tooth and has had a persistent headache that requires analgesia”.
SMILE! You’re on Camera! … and in Public
CCTV video footage of the controversial arrest and subsequent police interview have been obtained by Karno Walker under Freedom of Information laws, as have personal videos taken by bystanders to the event and other visual and testimonial evidence. For legal reasons, Wake Up World cannot release this footage to the public. Nonetheless, the weight of evidence suggests the outspoken Tribal leader caused no physical damage and calls into question the actions of the arresting officers – in particular the level of force applied, and the lawful standing of the police who apprehended him.
According to evidence held by Mr. Walker, he was speaking with DPS Security officers and The Black Rod in the security area after he exited the parliament chambers, caused no public damage and was not aggressive at that time. Police officers then entered the Hall and approached Mr. Walker from behind. One of the officers visibly grabbed the Tribal leader on the elbow. Surrounded by Police and Security staff, Mr, Walker turned to face the officer that grabbed him, and after a few moments of dialogue raised both arms in the air in a seemingly passive motion. Moments later, after further discussion with the primary officer, Mr. Walker was restrained first by the arms, then after resisting the grip of (notably) only one of two restraining officers – again, the primary officer – Mr. Walker was placed in a headlock and thrown by the neck from a standing position to the ground, face down, and restrained by three, then five officers. According to Mr. Walker, the officer was using unreasonable force in his restraint of his arm.
Personal footage supplied by onlookers to Mr. Walker’s arrest show the Original leader being taken down the stairs to Parliament House, backwards, then escorted, still backwards, to the Police van parked a block away.
Mr. Walker was taken to the Adelaide City Watchhouse where he was interviewed by one of the arresting officers. A recording was made of that interview and later obtained by Mr. Walker.
According to evidence held by the Walkers, the arresting officer allegedly stated: