REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: The importance of healing and counting

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Getting the Census count right is critical because government services are based on population. Photos: File.

Getting the Census count right is critical because government services are based on population. Photos: File.

Mount Isa is a typical Northern Australian town where probably one in 10 people are Indigenous.

I said "probably" because according to the 2016 census the Mount Isa figure is 7.97 per cent though many here believe Indigenous people are undercounted, a problem they are trying to fix in next month's census.

Getting this right is critical because government services are based on population and Mount Isa and its Indigenous population are likely not getting their fair share of services.

"Some people are reluctant to talk, for example if they've got five adults in the house and are only supposed to have two, people are nervous when it comes to officials," a local priest told me.

Raising the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at a Mount Isa Naidoc Week event.

Raising the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at a Mount Isa Naidoc Week event.

Overcoming mistrust of authorities is critical to a long-term solution, something Mount Isa Police acknowledged in their flag-raising ceremony for Naidoc Week.

The local police district officer Acting Superintendent Jason Smith admitted acknowledgement of native owners did not exist 10 years ago and they were "all working together to bring better outcomes for our Indigenous community."

He mentioned a homicide 38 years earlier when an Indigenous woman Patricia Rose Carlton was found brutally murdered in a Mount Isa hotel car park.

Indigenous man Kelvin Condren had been drinking with her the day before and police fingered him for the crime despite the fact he was in prison for drunkenness at the time of the offence.

Police verballed him, getting a forced confession, and they falsified the timing testimony of a key witness.

Kelvin Condren in 1999. Photo: Brian Cassey

Kelvin Condren in 1999. Photo: Brian Cassey

"They did the original investigation they way they did it in 1983, when it was a different world," A/S Smith said at the flag-raising.

"We thought differently and we didn't know as much about culture as we do now."

As a result Mr Condren spent six years in jail for a crime he did not commit. After Queensland's Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the murder charge in 1991 Mr Condren was free to try and pick up the pieces of his life shattered in a thousand pieces seven years earlier.

Following revelations in a 2019 book, forensic anthropologist Xanthe Mallet named the real killer.

She said a man in prison in the Northern Territory, known only as "Mr A" in the 1992 Criminal Justice System Report into the matter, had confessed to a murder of an Aboriginal woman in Mount Isa in September 1983 but Queensland police never bothered to investigate further.

But a new police breakthrough has named "Mr A" as Andrew Christopher Albury, currently serving a life sentence without parole in a Darwin prison for another murder.

"We are satisfied now Albury is the offender responsible for Carlton's death," A/S Smith said at the Naidoc event.

"He is in prison and we are looking at our options to see if it is in the best course of justice to extradite him to Queensland to stand trial."

Destined to die behind bars, the likelihood is Albury will never stand trial for the murder of Patricia Carlton.

But with the Naidoc Week theme of "Heal Country", the naming of the murderer is an important part of the healing for Kelvin Condren and for all Indigenous people who have suffered injustice from Australian authorities.

Now they need to stand up and be counted. Accurately.

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