How the royal commission into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Victoria became a royal commission
Posted On July 15, 2021
The Victoria Police commissioned a royal inquiry into the missing and dead Indigenous women of Victoria who had gone missing and been murdered in the 1980s.
The inquiry, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Crime Against Indigenous Women (RCICIWA), began in the 1970s and was officially announced in 1981.
The Royal Commission was a response to the coronavirus pandemic of 1979.
The coronaviruses caused hundreds of deaths and forced the closure of many Indigenous communities and communities that had been historically associated with them.
The royal commission was set up in the wake of the coronivirus pandemics, and it was the first royal commission of its kind in Australia.
The investigation into missing Indigenous women, and the coronavean pandemic that followed, was conducted by the Royal Victorian College of Physicians (RVCP) and the Victorian Medical Council (VMC).
The inquiry was a partnership between the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Surgeons.
In the late 1980s, the Victorian Police received information that there was a group of Indigenous women who were travelling in a caravan to the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Sydney to Melbourne.
The women were taken into care, and some of the women were subsequently murdered.
The Victorian Police established a task force to investigate and conduct interviews with the women.
A coronaviral outbreak had occurred and they had all been killed.
The task force interviewed a number of women who had been killed and identified the first person to be identified as the killer, who was a 19-year-old Aboriginal woman, who had not been found.
A further 18 women were interviewed by the task force, and seven women had been identified as having been killed by the same individual.
The victims were: a 19 year old Aboriginal woman who had never been identified, and a 17-year old Aboriginal man who had recently been married.
The 18 women identified by the coronaviars were: the first woman to be murdered, the 18 women who died by gunshot wounds, and five women who are presumed dead but whose identity has never been established.
In 1993, the taskforce identified the murderer.
In 2003, the police identified the second suspect, who also had a history of violence towards Aboriginal women.
In 2004, the second woman was identified, who is also a convicted murderer.
The RVCP and the VMC also identified the third suspect, whom they identified as a known serial killer.
The last known sighting of the third man was in 2015, when he was photographed outside the home of a woman who was one of the first women to be interviewed by police.
In 2018, the RVCM and the Victoria Police confirmed that the third woman was a person who had previously been identified.
The search for the third person began in April 2018, when a female relative reported seeing a man, aged 50 or 60, on the outskirts of the city of Coorparoo.
The woman told police that she had heard a loud noise, then saw a black vehicle parked near the house, and then saw the man, who appeared to be wearing a blue t-shirt, wearing a pair of jeans and a dark jacket.
The police interviewed the woman and she identified the man as a woman from the Coorpa region, who worked as a cleaner at a home in the suburb of Mabool, who lived at the time.
Police searched the house and found no evidence of previous violence against Indigenous women.
The man was taken into custody.
In 2019, the woman contacted police again, this time about a second time, saying she had seen the same man walking down a road in the Coogee area.
She also said she had previously seen him in the area of Mabo, where he worked.
Police spoke to the man and he identified himself as the same woman.
The female relative also reported seeing the same vehicle on the road in Cooogoo, which was then identified as being that of a white vehicle.
Police located the vehicle on a remote Aboriginal hunting ground and a number was found dead inside the vehicle.
The deceased woman’s identity has been confirmed to be that of the same female from the third sighting.
The fourth woman identified as missing in 2019 is the mother of the 18 missing women identified in 2017.
The mother of two daughters, aged 16 and 16, was last seen by a family member at a friend’s house in December 2019.
Her disappearance and subsequent disappearance from the home where she was staying led to a search of the Coonabarra and surrounding communities.
Her body was found in Coonaba in September 2020.
Her family has identified the body as that of her daughter, but she has not been identified officially as a missing person.
In January 2021, police identified two young men as the suspects in her death.
The first man, a 19 or 20-year‑old Aboriginal man, was arrested by the police on 13 December 2021 and charged with a number on the