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Burning cross sparks time for reflection -

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Burning cross sparks time for reflection

Sara Everingham reported this story on Monday, September 28, 2009 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: Religious leaders in the Northern Territory have condemned the burning of a cross
that marked the place where an Aboriginal man was killed in Alice Springs two months ago.

Five white men have been charged over his death and while police say the attack wasn't racially
motivated, the desecration of the cross has prompted reflection amongst Alice Springs residents
about the way that black and white Australians live together in the town, as Sara Everingham
reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: When Kwementyere Ryder died two months ago his family set up a memorial at the
place where his body was found. It was wrapped with flowers and on it was written "in loving memory
of a loving son, brother, partner, uncle and brother in law with an unforgettable smile". It was
burned on Friday.

It's prompted the mother of Kwementyere Ryder, Theresa Ryder to speak out. She is speaking here to
the Alice Online website.

THERESA RYDER: To see it get destroyed like that, it brings very strong sad feelings to us again,
you know, when we are just getting over this.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The death of Kwentyere Ryder has had a big impact on Alice Springs. He has a large
number of relatives in the town. The accused are from well established Alice Springs families with
connections to the Aboriginal community.

After the death the family of Kwementyere Ryder called for calm to pre-empt any further trouble.
The families of two of the accused men also met with members of the Ryder family to express their
condolences

The Bishop of Darwin, Father Eugene Hurley delivered the service at Kwementyere Ryder's funeral and
called for people to come together. He says he's sad to hear the memorial has been burnt.

DANIEL EUGENE HURLEY: I can only hope that it is a thoughtless and childish act of someone who has
no idea of the sacredness of that simple symbol. I want to believe that because to believe anything
else is to accept that we would inflame the hurt and sadness of the death of this young man by some
cruel act.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Pastor David Kuss is from the Lutheran Church in Alice Springs.

DAVID KUSS: I do know the accused. I do know some of their families very well. I can say that none
of them, the families or the accused would condone this cross burning or any kind of trouble.

I believe it has been very, very clear to the whole Alice Springs community that the Ryder family
are committed to not let tragedy invoke further tragedy so this kind of thing is just wanton
vandalism I'm sure just done to stir up trouble.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Police say the alleged attack on Kwementyere Ryder wasn't racially motivated.

The acting police commander in Alice Springs is Kym Davies.

KYM DAVIES: The circumstances of that incident, it could have been anybody. It just so happened
that Mr Ryder was an Aboriginal person and the people driving the vehicle were white people. We see
a lot of violent incidents in Alice Springs and we would not, we would be at pains to suggest that
they are not racially motivated.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Nevertheless the death and the burning of the cross have prompted reflection on
race relations in the town. Theresa Ryde says Alice Springs has become more racist.

Des Rogers is long-term Aboriginal resident of Alice Springs.

DES ROGERS: I think it has always been here. As I say, I'm not as black as some of my brothers and
sisters but I've been to shops where people obviously don't want to serve you because of those
things but I am big and ugly enough, I just walk away from it nowadays - don't go back to that
shop.

But I see it all the time. You know, particularly people that are living in the creek. You know,
being treated appallingly in the shops by not only the staff but by other people in the shop as
well.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The former Northern Territory administrator and long-term Alice Springs resident
Ted Egan says policies such as the intervention have brought more Indigenous people to Alice
Springs and put more pressure on relations between black and white in the town.

TED EGAN: When shopkeepers say I have had my glass windows replaced 300 times in the last five
years, yes they are going to be frustrated and when you see mindless antisocial behaviour mainly by
Aboriginal younger people around the town aggravated by poverty and disempowerment and alcohol,
there is going to be ongoing friction and the infuriating thing is that it is all capable of being
resolved very, very easily.

SARA EVERINGHAM: How do you think that is?

TED EGAN: Oh, there is a fella named Kevin Rudd in Canberra who should go around and listen to the
real people who understand the real issues and be convinced as he should be that this is the
greatest single social issue in Australia - the future of the first Australians and it is not good
enough that they are just treated as such inferiors at all times.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the former administrator of the Northern Territory, Ted Egan ending Sara
Everingham's report.