The Mullaley family have been searching for truth, justice, and accountability for the death of Baby Charlie for nine years. Here, we trace the key steps on the family’s long journey towards justice.
The first step: WA apologises to the Mullaley family
On 22 June 2022, the Attorney General John Quigley made a ministerial statement to the WA parliament about the abduction and murder of Baby Charlie Mullaley (Baby Charlie) and the police and government treatment of his mother Tamica Mullaley and grandfather, Ted Mullaley in March 2013.
Weeks before, Tamica and Ted met with AG Quigley, the Hon Simone McGurk (Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence), the Hon Paul Papalia (Minister for Police) and the new Police Commissioner Col Blanch to give their accounts firsthand.
The Ministers had been briefed through a position paper prepared by the Mullaley family and the National Justice Project with input from Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt (Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research) and Professor Chelsea Watego (Institute for Collaborative Race Research).
Mr Quigley recognised that “Tamica and Ted have endured the unthinkable”, telling the WA Parliament: “On behalf of the Government of Western Australia, Tamica, and Ted, I am sorry for the way you were treated by the government and the WA Police both before and after losing baby Charlie”
In the apology, the Attorney General conceded that “as a government, and as a State, we must acknowledge that for Tamica and Ted the response at the time was clearly deficient. Tamica and Ted, for that, I am truly sorry. You deserved much better from the police and from the government. We are sorry”.
“Tamica and Ted deserved compassion. Instead, the systems we thought we could rely on to support victims of crime failed and Tamica and Ted were dragged through the courts themselves”.
The next step: inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children
The apology, however, does not mark the end of the Mullaley family’s fight for justice. They continue to advocate for systemic change to make sure that no family endures the same treatment as they have.
On behalf of the Mullaley family, the National Justice Project will be making a submission to the Federal Senate Inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children. The inquiry will investigate the root causes of, and effective solutions to, a racist and discriminatory system that is failing First Nations women and children.
The senate Inquiry was put forward by Noongar-Bibbulmun-Yamajti woman and WA Greens Senator Dorinda Cox and supported by Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, a proud Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman.
Senator Cox said she knows of 76 missing and murdered First Nations women across the country and the data around those cases are “inconsistent and ad-hoc” between each jurisdiction. She has heard from many families like the Mullaley family who have been left behind, wondering why the cases of their loved one goes ignored and unsolved.
The National Justice Project has also co-authored a submission (together with Kathleen Pinkerton, Yvette Harris, and Professors Larissa Behrendt and Chelsea Watego) to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. This submission was referenced in the Special Rapporteur’s final report on violence against Indigenous women and girls, which sheds light on the different manifestations of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls and explores ways to reduce and prevent violence.
The final steps: accountability for police actions
The National Justice Project, on behalf of the Mullaley family, have written to the WA Office of the Parliamentary Inspector to complain about the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) report into the Mullaley family’s treatment by WA police on the night of Baby Charlie’s death and the weeks afterward.
The CCC report acknowledges these police failures 16 times and notes 51 investigative failures yet did not find any serious police misconduct. However, the consequences of their failures were catastrophic: Baby Charlie was abducted, tortured, and murdered while police refused to search for him.
When the CCC met with the Mullaleys, the family were told that one officer had been sent for retraining and one had been moved from Broome. The CCC told the family that their review had prompted WA Police to make changes to the way things would be done, but the family was not told what these changes were. It was not until the family met with the Attorney General that they were informed of any policy changes. Those changes, however, do not go far enough in tackling systemic discrimination.
We have also asked the Parliamentary Inspector to review our critique of the report and to recommend retractions and apologies to Ted and Tamica for the insults and racist tropes they repeated along with requests for structural reforms.
As the family asks: “The big question is what changes have police made? What happens when the next Aboriginal grandfather walks into the station and reports his grandson missing without any action being taken for hours? We the family of Charlie Boy remain committed to seeking justice for him”.