Aboriginal girl first to face race-hate law

by Ean Higgins and Alana Buckley-Carr
1st June 2006

AN Aboriginal teenager is the first person to be charged under Western Australia's new racial vilification laws after allegedly calling a 19-year-old a "white slut".

Mellissa Blackney - a Caucasian - was allegedly attacked by three Aboriginal females, aged 14, 15 and 21, after they threw a rock at her car, outside her Kalgoorlie home.

Speaking to The Australian last night, Ms Blackney said she did not ask for the girl to be charged with racial vilification but it was appropriate such charges had been laid. "I don't know why they started this racist crap. I wasn't racist towards them," Ms Blackney said.

"One of the Aboriginal women said 'Look at you, you white slut'. Then, they just decided to get physical. When I started to complain they just said, 'Just look at you, you f..king white bitch'."

Ms Blackney claims the April attack was unprovoked. She had been sleeping in her parked car, waiting for her mother to return home with house keys, when the group approached and threw a rock at the Nissan Skyline.

"They were there, laughing at me," the 19-year-old laboratory technician said. "They wanted to damage my car and it's bad to throw things at cars and expect people to be happy about it."

The mining hub of Kalgoorlie attracts professionals who can command big wages in the commodities boom. But a portion of the city's large indigenous population is blighted by social problems.

Ms Blackney said Aboriginal violence towards whites was a problem at certain times in some areas of Kalgoorlie but no more so than some white racism towards blacks, adding that where Aborigines were employed, the problem did not arise.

The modified racial vilification laws came into effect in May last year in response to allegations that Jack van Tongeren's Australian Nationalists Movement was responsible for racist graffiti attacks on Perth's main synagogue and businesses owned by Asians.

Under the new laws, people charged with serious racial vilification offences face up to 14 years jail.

But the teenager can only be sentenced to a maximum of six months detention because of the jurisdiction.

If she was dealt with in an adult court, she could face up to five years imprisonment.

Police prosecutor Rob Taylor said the 14-year-old was originally charged with conduct likely to incite racial animosity or racist harassment, but it required the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions and was replaced with the lesser charge she currently faces.

West Australian DPP Robert Cock told The Australian he would be watching the proceedings with great interest.

"But special conditions apply when you are dealing with children," Mr Cock said.

State Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Sue Walker, a supporter of the vilification laws, said they were modified to ensure tougher penalties for offences involving arson or violence that had a racial motivation. She said DPP-approval was needed on the more serious charges to ensure the intent of the law was maintained. Attorney-General Jim McGinty was not available for comment.

The girl is scheduled to face a hearing in the Children's Court in August.