Tasmanian Public Stage Presence at Hobart Court for Historic Inquest of Jari Wise; Statues Targeted Amidst Corruption Scandal

Tasmanian community members have staged a vigil at Hobart’s Magistrates Court from 7AM this Monday (5th February) in an emotional plea for justice regarding the 2020 killing of Wadi Wadi and Wamba Wamba man Jari Wise.

The action comes after a slew of the city’s controversial statues of colonial figures were targeted last week in the lead up to the Huonville man’s inquest, which will be held this week on the 5th and 6th of February.

The statues, including that of William Crowther, had banners affixed to their hands calling for ‘Justice for Jari’ by a disenfranchised community that has labelled the handling of the case so far a ‘corrupt and racist farce’.

Wise was a 26 year old father at the time of his death when he was struck down by ex-partner Melissa Oates at 110km/h in a 50km/h zone outside Huonville State School. Oates then fled the scene.

Oates served only an eight month sentence for two assault charges, 156 breaches of Family Violence Orders, dangerous driving, driving three times over the limit, and leaving the scene of an accident. No murder or manslaughter charges have ever been laid.

According to respected elder, artist, and grandmother to Wise Rissah Vox, all the family wants is an admission.

“Melissa Oates murdered Jari Wise, that’s what we want recorded. Just an admission.

“It will have been four years this year since we lost Jari. For four years, my family has been neglected by the state.

“Tasmania runs off corruption… it’s so deeply entrenched in the island that people don’t see it. It’s always been that way, for over 200 years. So while my family struggles to scrape together $95 every week to see a psychologist, Melissa has just been given $60,000 of Jari’s super. Yet she killed him. Is that not the biggest kick in the guts you can give a grieving family?

“Just that admission, that’s what needs to come out – that she killed him, not that he jumped out in front of the car.”

“Change needs to be brought about on this island… in a quiet way.”

Calls for an inquest over recent years were continuously knocked back by Tasmania’s judicial system before an unprecedented intervention by former Attorney-General Elise Archer, who ordered that the inquest be held just hours after the Supreme Court ruled that one was not necessary.

Archer was sacked from her cabinet role just four months after the extraordinary decision to overturn the court’s decision.

Since the initial sentencing in 2021, which saw Oates avoid responsibility for Wise’s death on account of testimonies from herself and her friend that Wise jumped out in front of the car, there have been ongoing protests by community members and widespread media coverage, including a 60 Minutes segment in 2022.

The coverage, for the most part, has echoed the sentiments of the outspoken Tasmanian public: that the evidence that has been seemingly disregarded by the controversial court case be taken into account.

Speaking to 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort, former Senior Detective Gary Jubelin also called into question evidence of Oates’ inconsistent recollections of the crash in the aftermath.

“There’s so many inconsistencies with what we know and her version of events,” Jubelin said.

Referring to the security camera footage which captured Oates passing the road on which Wise’s body was found at normal speed, then making a sudden u-turn and speeding in the opposite direction, Jubelin said it was “reasonable to assume” Oates could have seen Wise before doubling back.

“There’s evidence available saying the car was heard to rev up before the impact,” he said

“If you’re looking for someone, that’s not the type of speed that you would be travelling at”.
“The neighbour [says he] heard her say, ‘Look at my car, look at what he’s done to my car. I hit the c—‘,”
“Then she flips and says I’m not sure if I hit anything … to me that greatly attacks her credibility.”
During the same interview, Forensic Pathologist Dr Tony Thomas presented medical evidence that further conflicts with the sentence handed down by disgraced former Chief Justice Gregory Geason in 2021 – claiming it was highly unlikely that Wise was on the road at all.
“Distribution of the injuries that he received doesn’t actually match that,” Dr Thomas told Steinfort.
“He’s been hit on the gravel verge or on the junction of the verge and the road.”

Supporters of the campaign, lead by Wise’s mother Faith Tkalac, say they will continue their calls for justice amidst an investigation they claim has been intentionally botched – including, allegedly, a refusal by the attending officers to take witness accounts from first responders.

Community members say they intend to hold their presence both inside and outside the courthouse during the inquest in an effort to relay to the presiding Justice the wishes of the broader Tasmanian people for accountability to be served.