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Boney, Lloyd James (1959–1987)

by Tim Rowse

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Lloyd James Boney (1959-1987), labourer and prisoner, was born on 23 December 1959 at Walgett, New South Wales, son of Aboriginal parents Thomas James Boney, rural labourer, and Margaret (Maria) Murray. His birth was registered under his mother’s surname. After his parents separated, he was raised by his father’s sister Priscilla Boney and her partner Arthur Hooper, a shearer, at Goodooga until 1978 and then on the Aboriginal reserve known as Barwon Four, near Brewarrina. Aborigines, who constituted half of the population of Brewarrina by the 1980s, had earlier been subject to racial residential segregation and continued to experience high levels of unemployment. Lloyd was one of sixteen children raised in the Hooper/Boney household, though he remained in contact with his father. He attended Goodooga Central School in 1966-74, but did not acquire sufficient literacy to write a letter. While still at school he was convicted of breaking, entering and stealing, and released on probation.

On leaving school, Boney was intermittently employed as a rural labourer. In 1978 he fell foul of the law again—first for stealing (for which he incurred a good behaviour bond), and later for illegal use of a motorcar (for which he was incarcerated in Bathurst gaol). By this time he had become a binge drinker, exacerbating his epilepsy and causing episodic admissions to hospitals in the region. He was an unwilling patient whose hospital stays sometimes required police intervention.

In the 1980s he faced court on charges resulting from violence, property damage, assaulting police, driving under the influence of alcohol, and minor theft. He was also frequently detained by police for being intoxicated. During his long-term relationship with Grace Wilson (who bore their son Kelvin in 1985), he was sometimes violent. In 1986 he spent several months in prison. While he was on probation, his troubled domestic life and abuse of alcohol continued. In January 1987 he was charged with wounding Grace and released on bail. When he breached his bail conditions in June 1987 (after Grace and another woman had made further allegations of assault), his arrest in Brewarrina was a violent encounter with two policemen. These policemen and one other arrested him (again for breach of bail) on 6 August.

Boney’s life attracted public attention by the way it ended. He died on 6 August 1987 in Brewarrina sometime in the ninety-five minutes after he was locked up at the police station. Police said that they found his body suspended at the neck by a football sock. A coronial inquiry, held at Dubbo in February-December 1988, found that he died of asphyxia by hanging and made several recommendations for future police procedure. After his funeral and burial at Brewarrina cemetery on 15 August, a violent clash occurred between some of Brewarrina’s Aboriginal residents and the police.

Boney’s death was one of a series in the 1980s in which police were suspected of murder or, at best, manslaughter. In April 1989 the Commonwealth government appointed a royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The commissioner, Hal Wootten, in his 1991 report on Boney’s life and death, found no case of homicide for the police to answer, but criticised them for failing to monitor their prisoner and for their subsequent insensitive dealings with his family. Wootten also suggested that Boney’s troubled life and evident suicide typified the conditions of many contemporary Aboriginal Australians.

Select Bibliography

  • J. H. Wootten, Report of the Inquiry into the Death of Lloyd James Boney (1991)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Aug 1987, p 1, 17 Aug 1987, p 1.

Citation details

Tim Rowse, 'Boney, Lloyd James (1959–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/boney-lloyd-james-12229/text21935, accessed 19 November 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012