Recognition sleight of hand
August 12, 2015
Listening heals rifts
August 24, 2015

The legacy of the Pintubi Nine

By Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘Pintubi man Gene Gibson dealt rough justice’, by Victoria Laurie, Paige Taylor, published in ‘The Weekend Australian‘, 15 August 2105.

The Weekend Australian’s story about Gene Gibson’s poorly managed arrest and trial for the brutal murder of Joshua Warneke is deeply disturbing.

Gene Gibson’s grandmother was amongst the last group of Aboriginal nomads, the ‘Pintubi Nine’, and was 13 years old when the group made first contact with Whiteman.  This was not 150 years ago. It was in 1982.


Just a few years before Uluru was ‘handed back’ to its traditional owners.

Five years before the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Ten years before the historic Mabo Land Rights High Court ruling.

Sixteen years before ‘Sorry Day’, when Prime Minister Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal people, many of whom had been taken from their families BEFORE Gibson’s grandmother was even born.

Gibson’s grandmother made first contact with white people in an age of growing understanding of the importance of Aboriginal culture and rights… and of the shocking injustices that had been meted out to Aboriginal people since Colonisation.

His grandmother was a woman who had direct knowledge of a remarkable continuing culture spanning 40,000 years.

So what was the outcome of this historic meeting between the last nomads and ‘civilised’ white culture?

A frontier war fought with alcohol and junk food that stole Gibson’s parents. While his grandmother cared for him in his early years, she died, too young. From the age of six he barely survived, shunted from family to family – to people who were also struggling to survive the cultural collision.

When barely an adult, this young Pintubi man was incarcerated for a crime for which there appears to be reasonable doubt he even committed. His ‘confession’ of guilt was one of a number taken in English, his second or third language, without an interpreter present. Serious questions have been asked about how his case has been managed.

Warneke’s brutal murder is indeed a sickening crime.

Who is really guilty of his murder, and the management of Gene Gibson’s case, are questions that need very, very serious contemplation by wider Australia.