“We feel lighter now”: After 34 years of heartache, inquest into death of two First Nations girls resumes

Last Updated on 11/08/2022 by National Justice Project

This story contains traumatic content. First Nations readers are advised that this story contains images and names of people who have passed away. 

The NSW State Coroner has given the green light to resume a Coronial Inquest into the death of two Aboriginal girls thirty-four years ago near Bourke. After years of searching for answers, the family of Mona (16), a Murrawarri and Kunja girl, and Jacinta Cindy’ Smith (15), a Wangkumara girl, hope that the inquest will reveal the truth of what happened to these beloved children. 

Cindy (L) and Mona (R) Smith

On 6 December 1987, the two cousins were found deceased on the side of a road near a smashed ute. A middle-aged non-Indigenous male who accompanied the girls remained uninjured and was seen with his arm with his arm draped across the bare chest of Cindy, who was nearly naked. The man was acquitted of drink-driving resulting in Mona and Cindy’s deaths by an all-white jury, and a charge of interfering with Cindy’s body was withdrawn by the DPP. He is now deceased. 

“We feel lighter now”

Asked what the inquest means to the family, Mona’s sister, Fiona Smith, said: “We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. We’re one step closer to finding out the truth and giving the girls closure. It’s hard to express the emotions we are feeling. Happiness. Sadness. Love. It’s overwhelming. We feel lighter now.” 

Cindy’s sister, Kerrie Smith, hopes the inquest will reveal the truth of what occurred: “We need to find out what really happened to give us some peace, but the police failed us all the way. What happened to my sister was unforgivable and no-one has ever been held accountable. If a blackfella did that to two white girls, they would have gone to jail. We would like to thank George and the team at the National Justice Project for fighting for us and never giving up. After 34 years, it’s finally happening.” 

Searching for truth and accountability

Barrister Julie Buxton who has been assisting on the matter said: “It is a great privilege to assist the families of Mona and Cindy in their quest for answers. This case highlights the vital importance of the jurisdiction of the Coroners Court to deliver grieving families a sense of justice”. 

George Newhouse, Director of the National Justice Project, said: “My heart goes out to the families of Mona and Cindy, who have had to wait 34 years to have their questions answered by a court. Whilst the alleged perpetrator may be deceased, it is not too late for accountability, truth and perhaps some closure.” 

The NSW State Coroner has agreed to reopen the inquest which originally began on 8 November 1988, but which was suspended to enable to trial of the accused man. Following his acquittal, the inquest remained suspended until now. 

If this story has caused you distress, please contact Lifeline (13 11 14) or 13YARN (13 92 76) for support.