A Galiwinku man who viciously beat his partner with a rake and a spear-throwing device in front of their children, and threw a bike on her while she lay defenceless on the ground has narrowly avoided jail.
Joseph Burarrwanga, 27, was facing a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment as his case was heard in the NT Supreme Court this month, more than a year after the incidents which spanned 2019.
Burarrwanga was arrested by NT Police on April 21 last year after the assault and had remained in custody until February 4, 2020.
Despite leaving his partner, who cannot be named, with several cuts to her arms and legs, Burarrwanga is not expected to serve further time in jail.
In handing down his sentence on October 2, Supreme Court Judge Peter Barr detailed the horrific assault which ensued over allegations of cheating.
In one instance, the court heard Burarrwanga became enraged and struck the victim with a spear throwing devise called a woomera.
The incident sparked a domestic violence order which stipulated Burarrwanga was not permitted to harm his partner, but on April 21, 2019, the 27-year-old struck his partner with an “uppercut-style punch to her chin”.
“That punch knocked her from her chair and onto the ground,” Judge Barr said.
“She then grabbed a handful of mussel shells from beside the cupboard area and threw them in your face to get you away from her. However, you then went up to her again. She punched you in the chest and face in an attempt to get you away from her.
“You, in turn, kicked her twice to the back as she was trying to get away from you.”
The court heard Burarrwanga “swung [a] rake like a baseball bat towards the victim’s head, striking her above her left eyebrow” and grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground.
“You then grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her along the ground, towards the back of the yard,” Judge Barr said.
“There, after you let go of her, you picked up a child’s bicycle, raised it above your head with two hands and threw it down onto [her] back.
“While you were doing this, [the victim] was calling out for help from family members, but they were all too frightened to physically intervene. Her mother was trying to reason with you in an attempt to calm you down, but was unsuccessful.”
The court heard Burarrwanga had defended his actions as a cultural display of anger towards the victim, but Judge Barr said the notion “must be rejected”.
“There is no background that justifies your offending in any way,” he said.
“Although, I do not need to make a finding about this beyond reasonable doubt, I consider it is far more likely that, in claiming that you had engaged in a ritual display of anger, you distorted customary law to justify and explain your own jealous, violent conduct to other people.
“In reality, you engaged in an aberrant and idiosyncratic misappropriation of culture to other people. By cultural, I refer to Yolngu men’s business and Central Desert song.”
Taking into account the nine and a half months Burarrwanga spent in jail prior to bail, Judge Barr said his sentence was reinforced by a steady period of good behaviour.
“Taking into account your conduct over the past eight months… I have come to the view that you should be given the opportunity to continue with your rehabilitation,” Judge Barr said.
“To return you to prison for two or three months is not required to achieve the applicable sentencing objectives. Indeed, it could well be counterproductive to your rehabilitation.”