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The 2010 prosecution of five white men in Alice Springs following the death of an Aboriginal man resulted in their conviction on manslaughter and subsequent sentencing to custodial terms of up to six years each. This article reviews the circumstances of the death and its aftermath to question whether another recent account of the case as an instance of ‘white supremacist settler violence’ in Central Australia can be sustained. Far from being typical of Central Australian homicides, this case was exceptional in its inter-racial character, and far from being exceptional in its sentencing result, this article shows that the prosecution resulted in outcomes for the defendants that appear consistent with the principles in other manslaughter cases. It is argued that interpretation of these events demands an account sensitive to the changing political and social contexts of Central Australia, as well as a contextual account of sentencing practices and outcomes in the Northern Territory jurisdiction.
Mark Finnane is ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Griffith University. Kieran Finnane is a writer and journalist with the Alice Springs News, and Alice Springs resident for more than 20 years.
Image: Alice Springs News
Caption: The family of Kwementyaye Ryder call for calm in August 2009 as court proceedings commence. Thomas Buzzacott, cousin of the dead man, reads a prepared statement. Mr Ryder's fiancee and mother are immediately behind him. Karen Liddle, who became the family's main spokesperson during the proceedings, is in white at the far left.