After 36 years, the family of First Nations children Mona and Cindy need answers

36 years ago two First Nations children died on a lonely stretch of highway near Bourke, in western New South Wales.  Not a day goes by that their families are not reminded of their loss and they have never stopped searching for answers and accountability.

 

Now, finally, a coronial inquest into the deaths of the the two girls opens today at the Bourke Court House. 

The family of Mona Lisa ‘Mona’ Smith (16), a Murrawarri and Kunja girl, and Jacinta Rose ‘Cindy’ Smith (15), a Wangkumara girl, hope that the inquest will reveal the truth of what happened to their beloved children.

Ariane Dozer and senior paralegal Juliette Kennedy from the National Justice Project are in Bourke this week to support Mona and Cindy’s family. Together with barrister Julie Buxton, they have worked tirelessly alongside the family to push for the NSW State Coroner to reopen the inquest.

On 6 December 1987, the two cousins were found dead on the side of a road near a smashed ute. A middle-aged Anglo-Saxon male who accompanied the girls that night remained uninjured and was seen lying on a tarpaulin with his arm draped across Cindy’s chest.

Cindy was partially naked.  Her pants were around her ankles. The accident was seen by passing drivers, who called for help.

An all-white jury acquitted the man of drink-driving resulting in Mona and Cindy’s deaths, and a charge of interfering with Cindy’s body was withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He is now deceased.  

The NSW State Coroner has agreed to reopen the inquest which originally began on 8 November 1988, but which was immediately suspended to enable the trial of the accused man. Following his acquittal, the inquest remained suspended until now. And after all these years, the family deserves answers about what happened on the night their beloved girls died.

As a valued supporter of the National Justice Project, I thought you would want to know about this important inquest, which exposes serious issues into the way that cases involving First Nations women and children who have disappeared or died have been treated by the police, investigators and prosecutors.

Last week ABC’s 7:30 report ran a powerful story on the deaths of Mona and Cindy, its impact on the family and community and the long road to justice. 

The inquest into the deaths of Mona and Cindy Smith runs all week and again in the week of 18 December. The National Justice Project is walking alongside the family every step of the way.

At National Justice Project we want our coronial inquest work to lead to answers and justice for families, to improve the way the police respond to First Nations victims and their families and to drive radical change in actions and attitudes to prevent similar deaths.  Our coronial inquest work is conducted pro bono and costs for inquests are not recouped and are often expensive to run.

You can support our work to help families like Mona and Cindy’s on their road to justice.

Donate now, and join the fight for justice.

 

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