Content warning: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
Despite the headlines fading, the family of missing Aboriginal man Jeremiah Rivers are continuing the fight for answers.
Jeremiah Rivers, known as Jayo, was last seen near Wilsons River over 20 kilometres south of Noccundra in Queensland’s remote far west on the morning of October 18.
Mr Rivers was travelling to Darwin from Balranald in the New South Wales Riverina region accompanied by six other men.
According to his family, the men were travelling with two large vehicles that were towing trailers loaded with quad bikes.
The 27-year-old is one of eight siblings and hails from the Kimberley region of Western Australian and the Northern Territory.
On November 4, Queensland detectives took over Mr Rivers’ case, and classing it as a criminal investigation.
Speaking to media, Detective Acting Superintendent Stephen Blanchfield said the investigation is considered “suspicious” and that it was “out of character” for Mr Rivers to wander off.
Now, almost six weeks since he was last seen, questions remain about Mr Rivers’ location.
Mr Rivers’ Aunty, Brenda Garstone, spoke to National Indigenous Times.
“We know they got as far as Noccundra and everything went pear-shaped from there,” she said.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Ms Garstone alleged that as of last week, only four of the six men that had accompanied Mr Rivers’ had been interviewed by police.
Superintendent Blanchfield, speak to media on November 4, had noted that “evidence and inquiries to date have indicated some of the information” they had was “not consistent”.
“It’s suspicious because there are a lot of things that don’t necessarily make sense to us,” he said.
“They’ve provided some versions to us and some of the inquiries we’ve conducted as a result of those versions are not quite matching up.”
Ms Garstone, who had travelled from Halls Creek in WA to Queensland to be with her family, said it was suspicious that her nephew was the “only person of the group to go missing”.
“They are saying that the stories of the fullas they spoke with are all inconsistent,” she said.
“So, what does that say?”
The family, who have been left largely in the dark, have noted the huge inequity in responses by authorities.
“The police have kept the family out of it. They’ve just told us it’s an investigation and that they can’t expose it,” said Ms Garstone.
“What stands out for me now is that it is inequitable.”
On October 21, a non-Indigenous man was reported missing in remote central Queensland.
NSW Police, SES and multiple aircraft took part in the search, with 41 Australian Defence Force personnel joining the search party on the ground.
“The way they provided their response for us was a ‘backyard response’,” said Ms Gartsone.
“They put together a rough little volunteering group, they had station resources, they had emergency SES people. They had hardly any real forensic mob involved.
“But when you look at what they did for that white man that went missing. It was totally different.”
Queensland Police told the National Indigenous Times, that when the vehicle was intercepted by police near Noccundra only “two traveling companions” were present.
“The individuals did not initiate contact with police and when spoken to did not provide clear details regarding Jerimiah’s disappearance,” they said.
“They also indicated that he may have been with other travellers and that they would contact that other party once they were able to gain phone service.”
Once the party had entered NSW, a missing person report was filed for Mr Rivers.
“A significant land search of the area identified as the camping site where Jeremiah was last seen was conducted by trained Search and Rescue Coordinators utilising a wide array of resources including local property workers, SES, Police specialist units and aircraft fitted with thermal imaging capability,” they said.
The Police noted that search lasted a “number of days” and wrapped up on the morning of October 24.
A further search took placed between October 29 and October 31, which included “air capability”.
“No further searching has been conducted by police at this time and further searching will only occur when evidence supports a location that should be searched.”
Noongar/Yamatji woman and Western Australian Greens Senator Dorinda Cox, who on Thursday announced an inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children, said the disparity for missing First Nations People is glaringly evident.
“Even though [the inquiry] is about First Nations women and children, we want to be very clear this is about all First Nations People,” she said
“We know the disparity, we know, understand and hear those stories … If these stories don’t penetrate your world, you need to check your privilege.”
Senator Cox told the National Indigenous Times that it’s clear the “system isn’t responding”.
“This is what we want to make clear, we don’t get a reward when a child goes missing,” she said.
“These’s no million dollar reward for our kids, there’s no million dollar reward for any of the cases that we know of.
“This happened only six weeks ago, we know that this is a reality … We can’t talk about giving police Australian medals when we still have Blak people in this country missing – it doesn’t cut it for me.”
Despite over five weeks without a word from Mr Rivers, the family is staying strong in the hope Mr Rivers will be home for Christmas.
“I am staying strong, you have to stay strong to stay focused and get justice,” she said.
“We want to keep this going, we don’t want to go home and have him forgotten about. There is a life that is out there somewhere, that has gone missing. There are lots of unanswered questions.
“We cannot allow this. Blackfullas just get forgotten about, no more. We will go and go until we know what happened.”
The family have been raising funds through the GoFundMe platform.
They have raised almost $19,000 which will continue the searched for their loved one.
“We are living in hope to find him alive,” said Ms Garstone.
“It has been our family alone driving this search. We want a thorough investigation, we want to know what has happened.
“Five weeks on – where is he? How can one person go missing and six others come home? How can he just disappear and not be found?
“It’s all gone quiet, but we’re not going away. We’re keeping the pressure on.”
By Rachael Knowles