Vale Jack Ah Kit
CLANT laments the passing of the Northern Territory’s first Indigenous Minister, the Hon. John Ah Kit. Twenty years ago, Jack, ever the stirrer, delivered this truly stirring speech, the HC (Nugget) Coombs North Australia Lecture, YOU KNOW WHY: Compulsory Jailing and Racism. Tragically, the issues and challenges Jack raised are as cogent and current today as they were in 2000. As he said, “Compulsory jailing is an intolerable stain not just on the Northern Territory, but on the whole nation, and we should not rest until these hateful and hate inspired laws are removed from the statute books.”
Jack relied on the party to which he was loyal to remove that stain:
I am a member of the Labor Party representing the seat of Arnhem, including the Aboriginal community from which the young boy [Wurramarba, who died in custody while serving a 28 day mandatory sentence of detention at Don Dale in 1999] came. Labor, nationally and locally, has fought against these compulsory jailing laws, as we have fought against racism and disadvantage in the Northern Territory for years. Our policies include the restoration of discretion to the courts and provide a sense of responsibility and genuine opportunities for offenders.
To truly honour the memory of one of its stalwart leaders, it’s time for Territory Labor to implement those policies, make good on its promises, and abolish mandatory sentencing.