A landmark decision has been heard at the Alice Springs local court where an NT police officer charged over the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu last year will go to trial for murder in the Supreme Court.
Judge John Birch upheld the murder charge in Alice Springs local court on Monday, with a trial likely to begin in the Supreme Court next year.
It is only the second time time a police officer will have stood trial for murder over an Indigenous death in custody in the Northern Territory.
Family broke into tears as the decision was handed down, while community waved Aboriginal flags on the court lawns outside.
"It's so overwhelming, and there's so much relief in the outcome," Kumanjayi's cousin Samara Fernandez said.
"At the same time we do know it's a long journey ahead, but for now we'll take this win and really just try appreciate it."
Kumanjayi Walker died in police custody on November 9 last year after he was fatally shot in his home in Yuendumu, around 300km north-west from Alice Springs. Constable Zachary Rolfe was charged with murder within three days of the 2019 shooting.
Elders and young ones from the Yuendumu community gathered outside the Alice Springs local court throughout the day with banners reading Justice for Walker - and some donning the desert pea flower as a symbol of their mourning.
Senior community members addressed the small crowd and continued their calls for justice.
"We gotta speak up no matter where we come from, what language we speak," one of Kumanjayi's grandmothers Monica Napaltjarri Robertson said.
"We gotta open the hearts and... we gotta fight. We will be fighting forever."
Rolfe has previously indicated he intends to plead not guilty.
Monday's decision comes one week after Kumanjayi’s central desert families finally laid him to rest at an emotional ceremony in Yuendumu, which was also live-streamed via Facebook.
The teenager's family, teachers and friends shared memories of him as a funny, cheeky and caring person, and told NITV News the service was the next step in their journey towards healing.
The trial is expected to begin next year.