Victoria Police have refused to overturn fines issued to several grieving mourners who ran red lights while participating in Archie Roach‘s funeral procession.
The late Gunditjmara and Bundjalung singer-songwriter, who died at the age of 66 in July, was honoured with a procession led by his sons Amos and Eban, travelling through the streets of Melbourne on August 22.
During the ceremony, Roach’s body was transported in a hearse with the Aboriginal flag placed over it, while bikers representing the Southern Warriors Aboriginal Motorcycle Club followed the route in front of and behind the vehicle.
The procession rolled through the streets of Collingwood, Fitzroy and St Kilda, before Roach was ultimately laid to rest on Gunditjmara Country (Warrnambool). Hundreds of the iconic artist’s family, friends and fans turned out to pay their respects.
Victoria Police has confirmed they issued seven infringements to people who were part of the procession, all for running red lights. The fines are believed to be $462 each and, while there was a request for their dismissal, and three were reviewed, police will uphold the penalties.
As The Guardian reports, a Victoria Police spokesperson said in a statement that “disobeying a red light signal is considered a serious traffic offence” that “poses a significant safety risk both to the driver and other road users”.
News of the fines has prompted backlash online, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration at Victoria Police’s decision not to dismiss them. It comes less than a week before a state memorial service for Roach takes place at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
Roach died on July 30 at a hospital in Warrnambool, surrounded by family and friends after a period of “long illness”. The legendary songwriter, storyteller and activist’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes, with the likes of Briggs, Birdz, Alice Skye, Barkaa, Goanna‘s Shane Howard, Amy Shark, Gang of Youths, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese honouring his enormous life, career and legacy.
Last month, at the 2022 ARIA Awards, First Nations artists Jessica Mauboy, Thelma Plum and Budjerah paid tribute to Roach. The tribute began with archival footage of Roach performing signature song ‘Took The Children Away’, before the likes of Midnight Oil‘s Peter Garrett and Briggs reflected on their friendship with the legendary artist.
Budjerah, Plum and Mauboy then performed Roach’s track ‘One Song’, which went on to win the ARIA Award for Best Independent Release on the night. The award was accepted by Roach’s granddaughter Janaya – who said she was “beyond proud of him, words can not describe how I’m feeling” – joined by Emma Donovan.
In October, it was announced that a statue of both Roach and the late Ruby Hunter – Roach’s musical collaborator and life partner – would be raised in Fitzroy. Hunter and Roach met in 1973, and remained companions until Hunter’s passing at age 54 in 2010.