Two Aboriginal men, health worker Ronald Smith and his musician and artist partner Eric Avery, have lodged a formal complaint with WA Police after the pair were stopped near the State border in Kimberley as the officers believed they were driving a stolen car.

The couple arrived at a 24-hour quarantine border check point in Kununurra, but were not met by officers, and continued to drive on. Approximately 20 minutes later, the police stopped the two men, ordered them to leave their vehicle and place their hands on the bonnet.

It’s then alleged the couple were body-searched by one officer while the other pointed a taser-gun at the couple.

“The first thing that the officer said to us after the checks was, ‘the reason that we treated you this way is that we thought you two stole this vehicle.”‘

However, the vehicle was in fact Smith’s own vehicle, registered in his name.

 “After that, they told us why we were treated that way, [because] prior to that they actually had people come through the border with a stolen car… that’s no excuse to put their trauma onto the next person.

“You just feel so demoralised and just low, you’re degraded. You feel like a piece of black crap.”

Although the couple were able to travel onwards to Broome with no further incidents, they have both obviously been left traumatised from the incident, one which further highlights the level of racism and unconscious bias still present within the ranks of the Australian police force.

Only two years ago, Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson had to formally apologise for mistreatment of the State’s Aboriginal people at the hands of police.

“Today on behalf of the Western Australian police force, I would like to say sorry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for our participation in past wrongful actions that have caused immeasurable pain and suffering,” Dawson had said.

In relation to this most recent incident, WA Police have confirmed that a complaint has been received and have at least on face value said that ‘the incident would be fully investigated’. 

Smith said that by sharing his experience he “hoped that it would help WA Police reassess their protocols in the future.”

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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