Very sorry business
ABORIGINAL FAMILIES UNITE TO MOURN YOUTHS DROWNED AFTER CHASE
THEY came down from Yamatji country and up from the big regional centres such as Katanning and Albany to say farewell to Trisjack Simpson and Chris Drage.
Mourners from the biggest Aboriginal families in the State gathered on the banks of the Swan River at Maylands amid dancing, smoking ceremonies, the floating of wreaths and traditional music and culture.
The two 17-year-olds drowned on Monday while being chased by police after the alleged ransacking of a Maylands home, but there was not a hint of hate in the many messages of condolences that various family representatives delivered to the 400-strong crowd.
West Coast Eagles champion Liam Ryan — whose family is closely connected to the Simpson family in Mullewa — was spotted in the crowd, along with a number of senior indigenous leaders in the areas of Aboriginal health, education and culture.
Trisjack’s grandfather James Spratt said that while the two young men “should never have died in the way they did . . . we come together not as a protest, not as a rally, but to remember our boys in the way we should.”
“Although I know people are angry and have their own opinions about all this, I respect that, but today is the time to let these two young men go, and to let them know that they will always be remembered and cherished.
“There will come a time when we can come together and vent our anger and get the answers to the questions that we’ve asked, and that time will come.”
Jackie Oakley, the chair of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, told the crowd that in her 45 years working in indigenous affairs, she had never felt such profound grief within her community. “I have worked in Aboriginal affairs since 1973 but nothing prepared me for what happened this week,” she told the crowd. “To all the young boys and girls who may have lost hope, I pray every day that as individuals we get stronger, and as a community we can get stronger, because at the end of the day we can’t rely on other people. “We have to do it ourselves, we have to lift ourselves up, and once we get over our sorrow and our grief, we have to move on as a community.”
She said her heart broke “for our nannas, because as everyone here knows, nothing is more precious to us as Aboriginal people than our nannas”.
Les Shultz, the uncle of Elijah Doherty — who died after being run over in a highly publicised death in Kalgoorlie in 2016 — told the crowd that most of them understood loss better than most.
He lost his 17-year-old son in a car accident 10 years ago. He would have been 27 today.
“His cousin died with him in the same car. He was 16. Their mates died with them, they were 17 and 20. Four of them in one car,” he said.
“There’s many people who are hurting at the moment. We all know what that feels like.”
Sad send off: Hundreds of family and friends attend the emotional memorial for Trisjack Simpson and Chris Drage at the Swan River yesterday.