• Allison Bernard was 23 years old at the time of her disappearance (Supplied: AFP) (AFP)Source: AFP
The family of Allison Bernard are hoping for answers after the Queensland Coroners Court announced an inquest into her disappearance.
By
Sarah Collard

Source:
NITV News
13 Jan 2021 - 5:59 PM  UPDATED 13 Jan 2021 - 5:59 PM

A coronial inquest will be held in July into the suspicious disappearance of Allison Bernard, almost eight years after she was declared a missing person.

The young mother was last alive in February 2013 leaving a tavern in the small town of Coen in Cape York with a non-Indigenous man.

The 23-year-old disappeared between Archer River, near Coen on her way to her hometown Kowanyama. There have been no sightings since she disappeared.

Authorities conducted extensive ground and air searches and combed the countryside where Allison was last seen but failed to find any trace of her.  

Ms Bernard's uncle Teddy says he was close to his niece and her two young children and said her disappearance has continued to haunt the family.

"She was actually on our way back to Kowanyama from Weipa. She was traveling back a couple of days earlier for her oldest son's fifth birthday," he told NITV News.

“Alison has two beautiful kids...We're all still trying to figure out what happened."

The Kunjen, Kokoberra and Kokomenjen man said the disappearance has been tough on the family, with several close relatives dying without knowing what happened.

"Allison's grandmother just recently passed away last year and the not knowing what happened to her granddaughter -I might die one day still waiting to have any answers." 

Ms Bernard was staying with relatives and it was only when she didn't return after several days and no-one had heard from her that her uncle reached out to authorities. 

He said he fears the worst, that Allison – or Neridine as she was known to family — may have been murdered.

"We're all having these hopes that she might be alive but at the same time some of us are thinking that she might been met with foul play." he said.

Mr Bernard said the family hopes a coroner's investigation will uncover more details.

"We would like to know what happened. Even if someone did the unthinkable... Tell someone...at least we could bring her remains back," he said.

"We might get something out of this, some answers. We would like to know what happened - even if someone did the unthinkable... Tell someone then at least we could bring her remains back and be buried in a more respectable way."

Ms Bernard's disappearance is still an active missing persons case, and family met with Queensland Police on Wednesday.

"They said the case will remain open while they investigate. But [The investigation] It was pretty quiet, after the first 12 months." Teddy said.

Our women's lives 'must mean more'

Women's advocate and Sisters Inside CEO Debbie Kilroy has been pushing for a coronial inquest along with the Bernard family and others.

She wrote to the coroner last year requesting a coronial inquest into Allison's disappearance, writing a coronial inquest could investigate the circumstances of Allison's death as well as look at other cases of suspicious disappearances. 

"An inquest can bring a focused systemic and prevention lens to the potential underlying causes and circumstances of Allison's disappearance." She wrote in her letter. 

"[Focus on] Patterns of disappearances and or deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in similar circumstances in the Cape York region and other regions in Queensland."  

She said she welcomed the news that the Northern Coroner would now investigate  but feared too much time has passed. 

"At least it's being looked at now," Debbie Kilroy said. 

"That's a step in the right direction. However, by the time this happens, it will be eight years on and it's going to be very difficult to expose or uncover what actually happened to Allison on that night.

Ms Kilroy said too many Indigenous women faced violence and harm and believed that police had not properly investigated the disappearance. 

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's lives must mean more. They must mean more than they do now." Debbie Kilroy said. 

 "I believe that because of the fundamental racist policing and the violence of policing, not only in this country but around the world that if an Aboriginal woman, indigenous woman disappears, that she's invisible," she said. 

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's lives must mean more."

A spokesperson for the Coroners Court of Queensland told NITV News that an extensive multi-year search for Ms Bernard covered more than 36 thousand square kilometres across remote areas of the state.

They said that two officers were then sent to the Cape in 2019 to make further enquiries, with the findings leading to the Northern Coroner's determination that an inquest finally be conducted.

The inquest will begin in Cairns on June 7.

Anyone with information that may help police locate Allison is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.