Too young to die, too black to live

02. 34NEWSLOUIS ST JOHN JOHNSON turned 19 on the night he died in 1992, beaten unconscious on a Perth train by a group of four boys—girls looking on—dragged off to a road and run over with a car.

A cyclist came across Johnson’s broken body, still breathing, and called an ambulance.

Despite the young Aboriginal man having suffered a shattered pelvis, perforated bowel, broken ribs and a punctured lung the ambos deduced he’d been sniffing glue and instead of taking him to hospital took him home, where he died.

When interviewed by police, the young murderer said he’d done it because Johnson was “black”.

The killer was sentenced to seven years and nine months in gaol: he rejoined society long ago. Johnson remains dead.

Hamilton Hill professor Anna Haebich and associate professor Steve Mickler have co-authored a book on the events surrounding Johnson’s death, A Boy’s Short Life. It was written with today’s young adults in mind.

“To let them read about people their own age,” says Haebich, who also authored the harrowing stolen generations book, Broken Circles. “So many of the views of Aboriginal people we had [22 years ago] are still around.”

Haebich, whose husband is Noongar, cites as an example young Aboriginal people not going out alone after dark. That was a lesson Johnson, adopted by non-Aboriginal parents, and growing up in middle-class suburbia, missed.

“Louis grew up in great love and wealth, but didn’t learn those tricks,” Haebich says.

Haebich and Mickler will talk about A Boy’s Short Life at New Edition 41 High Street, Fremantle, Wednesday August 27, 6pm.

RSVP project@writingwa.org for the free talk.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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