The Point returned for 2021 on Tuesday night, in a new time slot, with new co-host Shahni Wellington (alongside John Paul Janke), and a stellar story line-up that explored a remarkable week of news: a coronial inquest in Perth, the nation-wide women’s marches, and rounded out by a compelling chat with legendary musician Troy Cassar-Daley.
It was a welcome return to prime time!
Swan River Inquest
Reporter Sarah Collard’s exploration of the 2018 deaths of 17-year-olds Trisjack ‘Jack Jack’ Simpson and Chris Drage delivered exclusive interviews with the parents of both boys, as the circumstances of their deaths while fleeing police are before coroner Sarah Tyler this week. Among the coroner’s tasks: to examine whether the actions of the police officers chasing the teens caused or contributed to their drowning deaths in the Swan River.
“It’s very important to remember Chris and Jack … they were loved,” Chris’s mother Winnie Hayward told the program.
Tristian Simpson said of his football-loving son Trisjack: “He was a good kid… I miss him. It’s that hard.”
The boys jumped into the freezing river as they were being pursued by police, who were responding to reports of trespassing on September 10, 2018.
Dennis Eggington of the Aboriginal Legal Service is representing two other boys who survived the tragedy.
“There is something terribly, terribly wrong, not only with the relationship we have with the police but the general civil society of Australia,” Eggington said.
Winnie Hayward said her son was terrified of water. After a motorcycle accident left him with an acquired brain injury in 2017, doctors advised him not to swim alone.
“The fear the police put in our kids is not good,” she said
“It shouldn’t be that way.”
Sacred sites threatened
The program also looked at two issues of damage to culturally significant lands. Reporter Ryan Liddle investigated the proposed raising of the height of the Warragamba Dam, near Sydney, which Traditional Owners say will destroy sacred sites.
Access to the dam site for Traditional Owners has been restricted since it was completed in 1960, with estimates that 80 per cent of culturally important sites were destroyed during its long construction.
Now Kazan Brown - whose father was forced off the land in the 1940s - is leading the public campaign against the latest development.
“We would be here every weekend if we could,” Brown told The Point, which gained access to the site with cameras via a private property.
The controversy over the dam renovation includes claims that the cultural heritage impact report was shockingly inadequate. Michael Slack, an eminent archaeologist, told the program: “The potential impact is catastrophic … you can’t put [sacred sites] back once it’s gone.”
Ryan Liddle also went to Bathurst, where he looked at the fight to protect sacred sites threatened by plans for a go-kart track approved by the local council for Whaluu (Mount Panorama). Federal environment minister Sussan Ley visited the site to meet Traditional Owners, and has placed a 30-day pause on the project.
Ley told The Point: “It’s really important that I listen and hear first hand from the Wiradjuri owners … that gives me time to consider further the issues of Indigenous culture and heritage.
“There are passions on both sides. There are strong community members who would like to see the project go ahead.”
March 4 Justice
In a packed show, The Point also dived into the big national story of the week - the remarkable women’s marches across Australia on Monday, highlighting Indigenous voices from the rallies and including an interview with Greens senator Lidia Thorpe.
“It was good to see so many mob there, so many sisters there, and Aunties … but I must say it wasn’t without putting some pressure on the movement to say, ‘You need to raise black women’s voices in this space, because we’ve experienced violence in this country for over 200 years,” Thorpe said.
“People listened and people acted.”
Janke asked Senator Thorpe what message had been sent.
“It’s a very clear message. I think it goes back to the colonial structure, the patriarchy that has dominated this country for over 200 years … times are changing and I think it was a clear message that we are not going to put up with it any more. Enough is enough and black and white women will be standing together from now on and we’ll be calling it out, not only in the federal parliament … but everywhere we go.”
Deaths in custody
The program also interviewed human rights advocate Nolan Hunter about Aboriginal deaths in custody, and touched on the deaths of Trisjack Simpson and Chris Drage.
Of the relationship with police and Aboriginal communities in the west, Hunter said: “Relationships definitely need to be improved... Indigenous kids are being incarcerated and sent to jail at the age of 10 in this country. It is unacceptable and what we’ve seen here is that these type of incidences and things that happen to Aboriginal kids simply should not happen.”
Shahni Wellington chatted with legend Troy Cassar-Daley, who spoke about his new album The World Today, and the personal traumas that inspired it, including the loss of his father, his marriage break-up and the suicide of a close friend.
“It’s going to really scare people this record. It’s totally different to anything I’ve done before but it’s done like that for a reason,” he said.
“This is probably one of the hardest records I’ve ever had to write… I didn’t want to sugarcoat one thing in it. I had to get to the core of a thing and be as honest as I could.
“The honesty levels on this record are huge. I tried to write my way out of it a bit.”