Case update: Swan River drowning inquest concludes

Last Updated on 19/03/2021 by National Justice Project

The Coroner’s Court of Western Australia today ends a five-day inquest into the tragic death of teen boys Trisjack Simpson and Christopher Drage, who lost their lives during a police chase.

Family and friends gathered at a memorial service for Trisjack Simpson and Chris Drage in Perth, September 15, 2018. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

After hearing the evidence that the police officers on the scene were both junior officers (with one on probation, and the other only five months out of probation) who could not recall their cultural safety training, mothers of the boys, Winnie Hayward and Shelley Ninyette, have expressed hope that the coronial inquest will provide WA Police with an opportunity to reflect on how it can improve its relationship with First Nations people.

Mother of Christopher Drage, Winnie Hayward, has said:

“Our voices need to be heard, and we need more services for our troubled youth. More needs to be done with Aboriginal communities to support their schooling and training, and we need more support and outreach services for our families.

Mother of Trisjack Simpson, Shelley Ninyette, has said:

“The police chase was too dangerous. I hope to see police having more positive interactions with our youth. We also need long term support for the families who have lost loved ones. We need to see more resources put towards youth facilities, and a whole lot more police working in the community with Aboriginal families.”

Advocates at have called for urgent, systemic reforms in WA Police to improve the cultural awareness and safety of officers.

Megan Krakouer, Director of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project, has said:

“This tragedy shows the importance of fostering positive relationships between police forces and First Nations communities. But this goes beyond a policing issue, it’s a societal issue. There needs to be political will to invest in local community-led programs that keep our youth out of the criminal justice system.”

“True dialogue means going beyond lip-service and symbolism. It means going out into the community to listen to the concerns of families and the young ones. It means having community members at the table to discuss how WA Police can improve the cultural awareness of police officers. And it means addressing the hurt that First Nations people are feeling because of over-policing and deaths that occur in the presence or custody of police.”

George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor at the National Justice Project, has said:

“We welcome statements in the inquest that indicate the WA Police have taken measures to improve cultural awareness training. However, in order to verify their commitment to improving cultural awareness, WA Police must be transparent about how improvements in training will be designed, implemented, monitored, controlled, and reviewed.”

“Police need to divert children away from the criminal justice system in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and not instill fear or else this tragedy could happen again.”

“Junior officers must not be left alone to make life-and-death decisions. To help improve relations with local First Nations communities, senior police officers who know their local community, and who have undergone thorough and meaningful cultural safety and awareness training, must be present while on patrol.”

To arrange an interview with Principal Solicitor George Newhouse, please contact:

  • Timothy Ginty, Communications and Fundraising Specialist
  • 0434 640 009
  • timothyg@justice.org.au