Tragedy brings change

Ben Wyatt.
Ben Wyatt.

Mr Pat was 16 when he died from head injuries in a Roebourne police cell – it was a day that sparked public outrage and has since resonated with the Australian community.

Living in Kalgoorlie at the time, Mr Wyatt said he could still remember the death and the public outrage that followed the acquittal of the police officers accused of injuring Mr Pat.

The Victoria Park MLA said it was a very dramatic period in his life.

‘My father was very active in Aboriginal politics at the time so it was certainly something that was in my own household and had an impact on my father’s and family’s life,’ he said.

‘I didn’t understand everything but I knew a tragedy had occurred and it was apparent to me it could lead to significant change and ultimately it did.’

Mr Pat’s death was one of a number of Aboriginal deaths in custody that sparked the Royal Commission from 1987-1991.

‘If there is one positive thing from the death, it changed the relationship between Police and Aboriginal people across the country’