In part two of a special report into the family feud in the indigenous Noongar community that made national headlines, Research Journalism‘s Kayt Davies details the night in question.
To tell this story in context we need more specifics about the fight in September. The teenage girls were the daughters of Kylie Bolton, of Ashworth Crescent, and Olive Penny, whose brother Dean Colbung lives on Clark St. The two houses are close to the south-west corner of the park. It was Kylie who was kicked.
The funeral in November was for Dean and Olive’s mother and, unrelated to that, 55-year-old Graham Bolton and his wife, 54-year-old Penny Bolton, had come from Pinjarra to stay with their daughter Kylie for the weekend and were catching up with their Kickett relatives.
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Dean Colbung was raised in Narrogin but lived away from the town for many years. He returned in 2007, six months before Murray Riley came back to Narrogin. Although Murray is related to the Kickett family, he’s close friends with Dean, and according to Basil and Chad Kickett, the feud started to heat up about the time Dean and Murray came back to town.
Murray, who was a police liaison officer attached to the Gosnells Police Station between 1996 and 2002, and a mine worker from 2002 to 2007, was angry about being labelled a trouble maker. “They should have done their homework and found out more about me and my personal background before jumping in and labelling me as a cause of the problems in town,” he said, “especially when they haven’t identified their own role in causing what has happened.”
According to Sen Sgt Martin Voyez, about 20 members of the Kickett/Bolton family were gathered at a house in Floyed St, about a block away from the park, and there were about 100 people gathered in Clark St for the wake. He said he had visited both families earlier in the day and that the families had agreed to keep to themselves.
At some point in the evening Graham and Penny Bolton went from Floyed St to Clark St, other members of the Kickett family followed and then there was mayhem. While I was told several blow-by-blow versions of events that night, these can’t be reported yet because charges against Graham Bolton have been listed for committal mention in the Perth Magistrates Court on April 15, and the charges against Penny Bolton have been adjourned for mention on the same day.
After the brawl, the only violence-related charges were laid against Graham and Penny Bolton. Initially they were charged with discharging a firearm to cause fear and a week later Graham Bolton was charged with a further three counts of committing acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm, possession of a weapon, inadequate storage of a firearm and carrying a firearm while intoxicated. In addition, Bjorn Kickett, 30, was charged with breaching the Misconduct Restraining Order he was placed under following the axe incident in September. Some people were treated for wounds consistent with being hit by blocks of concrete but no charges for throwing blocks of concrete have been laid. Following a police search of his Clark St house, Dean Colbung, 48, was charged with inadequate storage of ammunition.
Police allege members of the Bolton family “discharged a 12-gauge double-barrel shot gun into the crowd” and hit Dean’s son, Dean Colbung Jr, 23, and Armadale woman Lisa Woods, 36. Both were hospitalised for emergency surgery and have since recovered. Police also allege that one of the Boltons “aimed and fired directly at the driver of a motor vehicle attempting to transport one of the injured persons to Narrogin Hospital”.
Looking back on it, the Kickett family are angry their fears about what might happen that night weren’t taken more seriously by the Narrogin police.
Basil Kickett said: “They don’t understand that if there’s going to be trouble it’s around a funeral. If you’re going to have a fight you’re going to have it when all of the strongest people in your family are in town. The other problem is that when all those people come, some of them they bring speed and ganja with them and then everyone gets drunk as well. The police treat it as trivial but they shouldn’t. They don’t foresee the dangers.”
He had told police that he had been warned by the Colbungs of Narrogin and the Abraham family from Armadale that the homes of four of his family members would be smashed up that night and that it was a threat they took seriously because the windows of the Floyed St house had been smashed in September while women and children slept inside. Sen Sgt Voyez confirmed this, but said he had done all he could that weekend.
Sen Sgt Voyez added that it was not possible to close the bottleshops in town, as the Kicketts had requested, because there was a motorsport event called RevHeads on that weekend and the significant portion of Narrogin’s community involved in RevHeads reasonably expected to be able to get a drink.
On November 16, the Narrogin Aboriginal Community Reference Group (NACRG), chaired by Priscilla Kickett, issued a press release expressing the family’s anger about the way the police had handled the incident. The claims in the release triggered an investigation into the conduct of police, individually and collectively, in the period leading up to and during the shooting. The investigation, conducted by Inspector David Picton King (then the Divisional Inspector for the Great Southern Police District) found the “police performance was comprehensive, appropriate and lawful”.
In late January he said his report had been forwarded to Police Internal Affairs and the Corruption and Crime Commission for further review. The Kicketts remain dissatisfied and said they hope someone external to the police department will look into the matter. What worries the Kicketts, Murray Riley and police alike is that now guns have been used once that the ante has been upped and there is now a greater risk of them being involved next time.
Tomorrow in part three, the hatred and retribution simmering in the town. Research Journalism – published by the CREATEC Research Centre at Edith Cowan University – is a new academic journal for reporting issues of public concern.