Tucked away on the outskirts of Alice Springs, the sunset turns the sky over Anthepe town camp a bright shade of orange.
There’s a barbecue going tonight, so everyone is gathered at the playground in the middle of the community.
Kids are jumping on the swings or throwing a ball around the basketball court, seemingly unfazed by the significant drop in temperature as the community loses light.
It’s a tiny community; just one ring road runs around a central playground, with a handful of houses dotted around it.
On one side of Anthepe camp, just visible from the playground area, sits a quiet, empty house.
Kumarn Rubuntja used to live there.
It’s her death that has brought the community together tonight, for a moment more than two years in the making.
“I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” whispers NT coroner Elisabeth Armitage.
With a soft smile, she hands Ms Rubuntja’s loved ones two large paper bags.
Inside them are the last of her belongings, which had been bounced between investigating police and the coroner’s office since Ms Rubuntja was murdered in January 2021.
“It’s like her spirit is with us [now],” Cecily Arabie, Ms Rubuntja’s niece, says.
“[She’s] here with all of us saying her goodbyes to us and saying that she loves us.”
The Northern Territory coroner has spent six weeks investigating the deaths of four Aboriginal women, killed by their partners in domestic violence attacks.
Her visit to Anthepe camp comes as she closes the inquest into Ms Rubuntja’s murder, at the hands of her partner, Malcolm Abbott; the final inquest in her broad inquiry.
“This week has been a pretty tough week,” Ms Arabie says.
“A lot of tears, a lot of emotional stories. It’s been full on.”
The evidence has been difficult for both her family and Abbott’s, but Ms Arabie is glad the coroner — and the country — is paying attention.
“Domestic violence is a story [now] out there, to everyone,” she says.
“It’s not always just their business, it’s everybody’s business.”
Inside court, the witness box — in front of the judge, lawyers, media and a packed public gallery — is an uncomfortable place for anyone.
Let alone for the loved ones of a woman whose life was taken in the most brutal way.
But between the tears, stress and unimaginable grief there were brief sparkles in the eyes of those who loved Kumarn Rubuntja, as each took an oath to tell the truth.
“I said to someone [earlier], ‘I really hope someone asks us about who she was!'”
Maree Corbo lit up to tell the world how much she loved the woman at the centre of the coroner’s inquest.
“She was smart. She was very warm. [She had a] very dry sense of humour. She loved affection,” Ms Corbo said, smiling.
Next to her in the witness box, her colleague Carmel Simpson mirrored the mood.
“I want every one of us to remember R Rubuntja,” Ms Simpson said.
“I want those who knew her to remember; and I want those who didn’t know her to know the generous, wonderful, strong, witty, funny, courageous, resilient and loving woman that she was.”
The coroner’s court made a point to note Ms Rubuntja was not just another victim in the Northern Territory, where the rates of domestic violence-related homicide are seven times that of the national average.
She was more than another contributor to the 117 per cent increase in domestic violence reports the NT Police have recorded in the past decade.
And she was more than another of the Aboriginal women killed by their partners at almost 13 times the rate of non-Aboriginal women.
In fact, Kumarn Rubuntja had dedicated her life to reducing the statistics.
Working with the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group, a team of women from Alice Springs Town Camps dedicated to ending domestic and family violence, she travelled to Canberra in 2017 to urge federal politicians to pay attention to the struggles of women in central Australia.
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