The West Live: Kearah Ronan ‘wouldn’t have been arrested if she was white’, says Attorney-General John Quigley

Peter de KruijffThe West Australian

Attorney-General John Quigley has major doubts a young pregnant Aboriginal woman from Armadale would have been locked up for not being able to attend court to give evidence if she had been a white woman from the western suburbs.

Kearah Ronan is a Yamatji woman and former Miss NAIDOC winner who was taken to the Perth Watch House, made to strip search and spend the night in custody when she was six-months pregnant last year.

A bench warrant had been called on Ms Ronan, a maternal cousin of Ms Dhu who died in a South Hedland lock-up six years ago, when she missed giving evidence against a former partner in a domestic violence case despite the fact she was too sick to attend and had rung the court to inform them.

She was arrested after attending Armadale Police Station when she found out about the warrant.

The tragic ordeal has sparked Mr Quigley to undertake law reform to make sure the same thing never happens again.

He told The West Live that the whole community should be abhorred by what had happened.

“Had she been a very attractive white woman, pregnant, living in Cottesloe, victim of domestic violence and this had have happened and she went to the Cottesloe Police Station,” Mr Quigley said.

Attorney-General John Quigley
Camera IconAttorney-General John Quigley Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE

“I cannot imagine, for the life of me, she would have been arrested.

“I do not believe that a woman who’s normally habituating Napoleon Street coffee shops .. would have been arrested and taken into the central police station, strip-searched and a full body cavity search undertaken.

“All I thank god for … is that she didn’t lose that child through the trauma of this and lying on a concrete floor in the Perth cells.”

Domestic violence survivor Kearah Ronan with her daughter Gladys-May (right) and son Oscar.
Camera IconDomestic violence survivor Kearah Ronan with her daughter Gladys-May (right) and son Oscar. Credit: Supplied, unknown

Mr Quigley said the profile of magistrates in WA had to change to be a better representation of society.

“Things will change I'm trying my best to change it, we’ve got to have a more reflective judiciary and it will become more reflective while I’m in office,” he said.

More female judges have been appointed to the District Court since the McGowan Government came to power.

Greater diversity on the bench has also come through the appointment of Aboriginal magistrate David MacLean to the District Court.

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