The South Australian police officer who sparked national outrage after being filmed hunting a wombat with traditional methods has written a letter apologising to Kokatha and Wirangu people for bringing shame to his community.
In early October, Kokatha and Wirangu man, Senior Community Constable Waylon Johncock, appeared on an edited Facebook video throwing stones at a wombat in an effort to hunt and kill it for food.
The video was shared and sparked widespread outrage, which included racist abuse and death threats on social media towards Mr Johncock and his family members.
In a letter addressed to the Far West Coast Aboriginal Community and released exclusively to NITV News on Friday, Mr Johncock apologised for the video being uploaded to social media after Elders from his community told him it was wrong to do so.
“In relation to the wombat matter it was never my intention to cause anyone distress," Mr Johncock said in his written apology.
"Looking back, however, I can now clearly see how such raw content can be offensive to anyone who is unfamiliar with our Traditional hunting practices."
Speaking to NITV News this week, Mr Johncock said he wasn't aware the video was going to be posted to social media, however, said he felt that he "owed" it to his people to make an apology.
"I completely agree with our traditional Elders that the footage shouldn’t have been posted on social media because it gave the outside world a look into our traditional ways of living, and for that I am deeply sorry," Mr Johncock said in the letter.
Earlier this year, NITV News travelled to Ceduna, South Australia to sit down with Wirangu and Kokatha Elders to investigate whether Mr Johncock had acted inconsistently with cultural practices whilst hunting the wombat with a rock.
Community Elders said Mr Johncock had done nothing wrong with the way he killed the animal after they watched the full unedited version of the video.
Elders also told NITV News that Mr Johncock goes on regular hunting trips to provide food for community members who are unable to hunt for themselves.
Mr Johncock told NITV News that after he killed the animal, it was shared with family members.
NITV News has seen the full unedited version of the video which shows Mr Johncock killing the animal with a traditional jooding [hunting stick].
PROTEST AGAINST OFFICER
Hundreds are expected to protest this Sunday In response to the conclusion of the South Australian Police internal investigation into the incident, which found Mr Johncock's "actions were not inconsistent with traditional hunting practices."
The protest also comes off the back of a petition with more than 360,000 signatures that seeks to have changes made to the Native Title Act.
NITV News has reached out to the organisers of the protest.
Members of the South Australian Far West Coast Aboriginal Community
Date: 13thDecember 2019
Subject: Wombat matter
Firstly I would like to acknowledge all Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise our continuing connection to land, waters and culture. I pay my respects to our Elders past, present and emerging.
Born on the West Coast of South Australia into a proud Kokotha/Wirangu family, I was introduced to hunting Native tucker at a very young age. The knowledge and skills I have gained over the years to understand our land and effectively hunt native animals independently I will pass onto my children.
In relation to the wombat matter it was never my intention to cause anyone distress. Looking back, however, I can now clearly see how such raw content can be offensive to anyone who is unfamiliar with our Traditional hunting practices.
I completely agree with our traditional elders that the footage should have never been posted on social media because it has given the outside world a look into our traditional ways of living and for that I am deeply sorry.
At the time I was not aware the footage would be shared on social media or that it would be altered in such a way to try dishonour my occupation, name, family or culture as these practices are a normal way of life for us Aboriginal people here on the Far West Coast.
As you are all aware I was in my religious capacity and was within my cultural right to take the life of the wombat and that it was cleaned, passed onto family and was then cut up and shared out amongst multiple other families.
As a result of this I have been under attack from the outside world and received hundreds of death threats, some of these threats have been targeted at my family but the most disturbing of all were the ones written and targeted at my children.
On behalf of my partner and I, we would like to highlight your ongoing support, you have made this difficult time in our lives much more comforting as we feel as though we are not facing this experience alone and for that we cannot thank you enough.
I ask and encourage you all to ignore social media conflicts, refuse to participate in any hatred conversations online, it isn’t worth your energy nor time. Continue your respective lives as per normal and focus on your family and work.
Hoping you all have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year.