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Elijah Doughty's mother pleads for 'everybody to come together' -

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MATT WORDSWORTH, PRESENTER: The mother of Kalgoorlie teenager Elijah Doughty has called for an end to divisions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in her home town.

Fourteen-year-old Elijah was killed last year, run over by a man driving a four-wheel drive, who says he was trying to retrieve a stolen dirt bike.

The man has been jailed for three years after being found guilty of dangerous driving occasioning death. He was cleared of the more serious charge of manslaughter.

The verdict sparked protests across the country and lawyers for the teen's family are now preparing a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

In an exclusive interview with 7.30, Elijah's mother, Petrina James, says the community needs to move on together.

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.

Not enough justice.

CLAIRE MOODY, REPORTER: It's a case that's unleashed anger and anguish among Aboriginal Australians across the country.

KALGOORLIE RESIDENT: As a blackfella in this community, and it hurts, hurts all of us.

CLAIRE MOODY: This is the boy they are protesting over. Elijah Doughty was just 14 when he was killed while riding a dirt bike along this reserve in the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie.

The driver of the ute said he was chasing him because the bike had been stolen from his home but he didn't intend to hit him.

KALGOORLIE RESIDENT: Black, white or otherwise, that child, it was a child that was involved here, there was no justice here.

PROTESTERS: No justice. No peace.

CLAIRE MOODY: There has been rage as well as sorrow because last week the 56-year-old man was cleared of manslaughter.

Instead, he was given a three-year sentence for the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.

PROTESTER: Let's have a minute of silence for him and the family.

PETRINA JAMES, ELIJAH DOUGHTY'S MOTHER: The main emotion is thinking that my son's life was taken for no reason and no justice has been served.

CLAIRE MOODY: Elijah Doughty's death sparked riots in Kalgoorlie last year. A dozen police officers were injured.

But his mother, Petrina James, was dealing with the news from a prison cell.

PETRINA JAMES: It was lock down and I got called, taken out of my cell, and walked up to one of the rooms and I was asked to sit down and they told me.

CLAIRE MOODY: What did they say?

PETRINA JAMES: They told me my son had passed away. I fainted.

CLAIRE MOODY: Petrina James was allowed out of prison to attend her son's funeral last year.

She has been in and out of the criminal justice system since she was a teenager. Her crimes linked to drug and alcohol addiction.

The last time she was sentenced for multiple burglary and stealing offences, the judge criticised the state's rehabilitation services as inadequate.

She was released on parole under strict conditions just in time for the trial of the man charged with killing her son.

PETRINA JAMES: Of course there is a lot of guilt. I wasn't there to protect him. I wasn't there to say goodbye.

PROTESTER: Justice for Elijah.

CLAIRE MOODY: The outcome of the trial has led to rallies in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.

Another is planned for Melbourne tomorrow.

They are calling for justice for Elijah.


CLAIRE MOODY: But what does justice look like? What do you want now?

PETRINA JAMES: Um, I want the man that's killed my son to get what he deserves, a proper sentence.

CLAIRE MOODY: Solicitor Stewart Levitt has taken up the family's case. He says the verdict can't be revisited but the police investigation can.

STEWART LEVITT, SOLICITOR: There was no taping-off of the crime scene until many hours after the events. The police excuse being that they'd run out of tape so that people were trampling over the tracks.

There were dogs weeing on the tracks.

CLAIRE MOODY: The allegation is significant because the man responsible for Elijah's death claimed that the teenager turned unexpectedly into the path of his ute and that's what caused the collision.

WA Police told 7.30 its handling of crime scene and other tasks were professional and diligent but Mr Levitt disagrees.

STEWART LEVITT: Effectively all the jury heard was the, what was, by and large, the accused's own version of what occurred.

CLAIRE MOODY: Tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents in Kalgoorlie had been building before Elijah's death with extreme views being vented on Facebook about lawlessness and crime.

FACEBOOK POST: Everyone talks about hunting these sub humans down ... no one ever does.

CLAIRE MOODY: Since then, community leaders have been trying the address the complex social issues that face the town.

There have been calls for federal funds for an Aboriginal youth drop-in centre, for example, and for the cashless welfare card to be introduced.

JOHN WALKER, CITY OF KALGOORLIE-BOULDER: After all, it is welfare money. It is taxpayers' money that ought to be spent appropriately on looking after children and families, on food and education and the like.

So the community generally we believe is in favour although not everyone ever will be.

CLAIRE MOODY: While the town tries to move forward, Petrina James is trying to stay on the straight and narrow.

She says she has been clean since 2015 and now focusing on her biggest challenge yet - bringing up her other children whilst grieving for her son.

PETRINA JAMES: It's affected me a lot.

CLAIRE MOODY: Has it changed you as a person?

PETRINA JAMES: Yeah, I'm a better person now.

CLAIRE MOODY: In what way?

PETRINA JAMES: Um, not how I used to be, taking life for granted, didn't really spend much time with my kids.

I don't do things like I used to do, just in a lot of ways.

CLAIRE MOODY: What kind of things?

PETRINA JAMES: Just getting into trouble with the law. Going out drinking and that. I don't do that any more.

CLAIRE MOODY: While the protests continue, one fact remains - a 14-year-old boy died in tragic circumstances.

The challenge now for everyone in Kalgoorlie is to prioritise the kids.

PETRINA JAMES: I think everybody should come together, not just Aboriginal people, everybody.