WARNING: * Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following post contains images of people who have died.*
Australia’s last official Aboriginal police-tracker has passed away.
Barry Port was a living legend in his hometown of Coen, the town’s public bar is even named after him.
The 77-year-old was the last Aboriginal tracker officially employed by an Australian police service. For 36 years he pursued drug dealers, escaped prisoners and cattle rustlers for Queensland Police.
“We’d go out looking for drugs, people camping in the bush who had set up big plantations and once we found it we’d destroy it all,” Mr Coen told the ABC.
“You could follow their footsteps through the scrub, they’d make a bit of a track to their crop.
Russell Rhodes Patrol Group Inspector Tablelands Patrol Group issued a statement on the death of Mr Port.
“From 2003 to 2008 I was the QPS Inspector for Cape York and Torres Strait and I regularly worked at Coen Station. Barry Port was an excellent Aboriginal assistant within the Coen Community and he worked with retired Cape York Senior Sergeant Jim Rankine and myself at Lockhart River, Aurukun, and other Aboriginal communities. Barry Port was a great communicator with Cape York Aboriginals and our QPS Staff and he also helped resolve plenty of police investigations”.
Mr Port was the final link in the 150-year partnership between Queensland police and Indigenous trackers, whose unique investigative bush skills were invaluable in a time before helicopters, mobile phones and GPS.
In his final track, Mr Port was tasked with finding a man who bolted into the bush from the Coen courthouse after being sentenced. Three hours later, the man was back in the lock-up.
He retired in 2015, spending his time fishing and reflecting on the Coen River.
He died on Wednesday night from a heart condition.