The Road 6g - Cindy and Mona Smith


Cindy and Mona Smith

A red dress hangs from a tree, sunlight shines through the canopy projecting shadows onto the dress.

[imagecaption] The REDress campaign to remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada was conceptualised by Winnipeg Métis artist Jamie Black, who called for red dresses to be hung in public spaces across the nation as ‘a visual reminder’ of the ‘gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women.  The Red Dress has since become an international symbol. Photo: REDress in Fremantle by Suvendrini Perera. [/imagecaption]


In Australia, the deaths of Cindy and Mona Smith show how white men can sexually exploit and kill Indigenous girls with impunity.  In December 1987, the ‘happy-go-lucky’ 15 and 16 year-old cousins, who were described as inseparable, accepted a lift from a middle aged white man. Only hours later, their bodies were found laying in the wreckage of his ute on Mitchell Highway north of the small NSW town of Bourke. The highly intoxicated but unharmed driver was found with his arm over Cindy’s near naked body. He walked free after the charge of sexual misconduct was withdrawn by police.

‘To hear what happened to these girls, and he walked free. Oh man! … if it had been two little white girls, it would have been a different matter. And if it was a black man (with two white girls) he would have been locked up there and then, thrown away the keys, still in jail today.’

June Smith, Mona’s mother

In 2017 the man died at age 70 in an aged care home. The families have spoken of how inequality before the law impacted upon the court proceedings and of their belief that if Cindy and Mona had been white girls and the perpetrator a Black man, there would have been a very different outcome. Over the past 30 years Cindy and Mona Smith’s families have been denied justice; following the death of the perpetrator it is unlikely that they will ever receive anything close to it.


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