An off-duty police officer made headlines this week after footage emerged of the man stoning a wombat to death, seemingly for fun.
The video showed Senior Community Constable Waylon Johncock running down the road shirtless, following a lone wombat and throwing large rocks at it. After striking the defenceless animal on the head, Johncock can be seen raising his arms and smiling triumphantly.
As the footage went viral, Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens confirmed the man in the video was an off-duty officer, and said his actions in the video were ‘totally abhorrent and unacceptable’.
South Australian police are now investigating the video, which was shared by the Wombat Awareness Organisation.
However, an Aboriginal elder has since defended the video, calling Johncock’s actions ‘cultural practice’.
Wirangu-Kokatha elder Jack Johncock, based in Port Lincoln, told ABC throwing rocks at Wombats was ‘one of many methods’ local Aboriginal people used to kill wombats for food.
It’s easy for people to sit back and judge people. This has been part of our culture and the way we’ve gone about it for thousands of years.
For the people of the west coast of South Australia, the wombat is a big part of their diet and they’ll get wombat any way they can.
The Wombat Awareness Organisation have since started an online petition calling for laws to be put in place to make stoning wombats to death illegal, including for Aboriginal people, who are allowed to kill certain native wildlife in South Australia.
Elder Jack Johncock said the petition showed a ‘lack of understanding of cultural practices’.
Don’t they think they’ve done enough changes in this country to take away all our rights and customs? I think enough is enough.
What do they want us to do, eat McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried and get fat like everyone else in the country?
Others, however, condemned the actions portrayed in the video, including prominent fellow Aboriginal leader Major Summer, who told The Advertiser the actions of the off-duty police officer were ‘wrong’ and ‘showed no respect for the animal’. Summer, a Ngarrindjeri elder, also said: ‘We didn’t hunt like that. We still don’t hunt like that.’
Veterinary scientist and conservationist Dr Wayne Boardman said:
Using a blunt instrument like a stone… it just beggars belief why people do sorts of things like that.
Even though that might be some sort of traditional way of doing things, this is a very slow and horrible way for that animal to die.
Police Minister Corey Wingard said they are investigating the footage and the off-duty officer’s actions. According to Wingard, an investigation is underway, and he added that ‘from the evidence that’s before us, without knowing all the details, I don’t think anyone would accept the behaviour that we saw’.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.