Deathscapes

Ward 2c - Two Roads

Deathscapes

Two Roads, Two Laws

Mr Ward’s life and death in custody are structured by roads. The road on which he was arrested, between his country and the settler town of Laverton (originally named British Flag), is the road on which he begins his journey to death.

The second road runs from Laverton to Kalgoorlie prison. It is along this road that Mr Ward was killed. Mr Ward’s death is plotted along the axes of these roads.

A third road, from what is now Patjarr, at the edge of Mr Ward’s country, to the town of Warburton, marks his people’s journey into a landscape scored by histories of usurped sovereignty, enclosure, exploitation of the land and the abrupt removal of people from their own waterholes and country, to be  centralised and sedentarised.

Mr Ward’s death in custody is also inscribed by the operation of two systems of law: the violently imposed law of the settler state and its legal regimes of criminalisation of Indigenous people, regimes that ensure the serial production of Indigenous deaths in custody, and surviving Indigenous Law that continues to contest the legitimacy of settler law and that is inextricably bound to the very flourishing of Aboriginal life and Country.

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Struggles to regain Native Title over his land preoccupied Mr Ward in the last years of his life. In his Native Title struggles, Mr Ward laboured to expose the colonial expropriation of his land and the undiminished power of Indigenous Law over Country.


‘We lived unaware of the white man and his world…There were no roads. We lived there and saw when someone made a road and we were afraid because we’d never seen anything like it. When we first saw the road, we all ran off to the bush in fright…we were taken to Warburton…We lived there a long time with our families. We lived there for a while and we heard talk that someone was going to build a road back to our home…and all the old people got happy and said, “yes, make a road and go back to your own Country.”…I was part of the group of people who made the road…all that way to Patjarr.’

Norma Ngumarny Giles, Ngaanyatjarra Elder


 

 


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