MODERATOR’S COMMENT – Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly

March 12, 2022

(Thinking about Kumanjayi Walker and Constable Rolfe)             


I am feeling deeply distressed.  Many people have expressed their feelings of distress to me since yesterday’s ‘Not Guilty’ verdict.  I am compelled to comment.  So I write.

The verdict in the Rolfe trial regarding Kumanjayi Walker’s death, has raised emotions again and split public opinion.  My distress comes from thinking about Kumanjayi’s family and community; thinking about the Warlpiri people of central Northern Territory; and thinking about all Aboriginal people across Australia.  Anger is again flaring up. Tears are falling.  My tears fall with you in your ongoing grief and loss, my brothers and sisters.  I am feeling deeply distressed.

We live in a country governed by common laws and we are expected to respect the verdict of juries.  After all, the jurors know more about the details and the lawyers and judge know more about the law than the rest of us.  Regardless of the verdict, young Constable Rolfe has to live with the events of that fateful day in 2019.  We can but hope that Constable Rolfe will continue to reflect and learn from that situation that escalated to the pojnt of him shooting a 19 year old man dead.  It was an avoidable death.  It was an unnecessary death.  Things could have been very different.

We mourn with the family of Kumanjayi Walker.  And our hearts go out to Constable Rolfe’s family also. Two young men, both with families and friends who love them.  One is dead!  The other has to carry the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.  Everyone loses.  And we are, all of us, poorer and sadder for it.  There is also a great deal of real anger in the community.  There has to be a better way.

I am thankful for the work that our NT Police do to keep people safe and to help in times of trouble and distress.  Most of the time, most of the Police do a good job for us.  But we want all people to be safe.  We want those who are distressed and in trouble with the law to be safe as well as everyone else.  They are our neighbours and our family too.  We do not want excessive violence to be the way confrontation is resolved.

There must be learning from this terrible situation to help avoid it happening again.  And yet, just three days ago in a suburb not far from here another young man, 19 years old, was shot.  We are told he was in a park with a spear.  He was perceived to be a threat.  We are told that six shots were fired. He is in hospital now.

No wonder so many are feeling deeply distressed.

Is the best way to respond to angry young men who are wielding an axe or a pair of scissors or a spear to shoot them down with multiple gunshots?  I know, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know the full situation.  That’s true.  What I do know is that these situations continue to occur across our country and it is time they stopped.  What I do know is that Kumanjayi and the young man in the park, both needed support and help.  Young Walker didn’t deserve to die.  Neither of these young men deserved to be shot down.  God help them; they were only nineteen.

We can hope and pray that the Coronial Inquest will uncover more of the story than the murder trial was able to address.  And that it will be more than words on paper.  It is time that some structural things changed and those with positions of leadership and power worked more effectively with the community for a common future of respect and equality.  What are the root causes underlying anger and disillusionment amongst so many Aboriginal youth?  What can be done to support and help?  What do the Aboriginal elders tell us needs to happen? Are we prepared to listen to ancient wisdom and empower people to play a leading role in the solutions of their lives and communities?  Or do we think that more guns against blades will solve things?

The Uniting Church Northern Synod expresses our deepest sympathies to Kumanjayi Walker’s family and all Warlpiri people.  We recommit ourselves to work for better ways forward where Aboriginal people are supported and empowered in matters regarding their own lives and their own communities.  We echo the words of the ancient prophet Micah that we are required by God to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.

Justice for all, kindness towards all and the humility of all, would be a good way for all of us to live.

I am feeling deeply distressed

My tears are falling with the tears of Warlpiri and all caring Territorians.

God have mercy on us all.

Rev Tony Goodluck



Northern Synod

Uniting Church in Australia

Mob: 0498 680 215



Living on Larrakia land

Born on Jaitmatang land

Raised on Jaitmatang, Woiworunn, Maarku and Larrakia land