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Vanished: The unsolved cases of First Nations women | SBS The Feed

Where are they now?

Joanne’s case was eventually handed over to a specialist investigative team after the three unsuccessful searches. 

But to this day, Evelyn said she has never heard from the police or received an update on the investigation. 

“Nobody ever kept looking. I don’t know what they’ve been doing,” she said. 

“The police didn’t speak to us at all, it was very annoying and disrespectful. Everyone was seeing on the news that police always update the families, but they weren’t doing it with us.” 

Commander of Crime Command, Sachin Sharma told The Feed he wasn’t aware if any news was given to Joanne’s family, but a next of kin should have been notified about the coroner’s decision to rule her as deceased, due to unknown causes. 

“But for us, we are still working on it. We will still continue to work in the hope that we will find Ms Anderson,” he said. 

After the delayed five-day search for Rebecca, a second search was conducted in the same area eight weeks later. But again, nothing was found in the additional two days. 

About two years after his sister disappeared, Eric moved to Alice Springs for work. He began to search for Rebecca himself. 

“You cry out for your family and you think, you’re here in a strange place and you didn’t belong, what happened to you? Did someone pick you up? Did you wander off the road somewhere and get disoriented and lost?” 

With no more searches conducted and her case seemingly gone to whispers, Eric began pushing for a coronial inquest into Rebecca’s case. Eventually, and only after persistent lobbying, he was able to get a coroner’s report.

That report was handed down in 2020. 

“It took a lot of effort and energy and lobbying to get the police to complete aspects of their work and to get the Coroners Court to do their work,” he said. 

Eric, who works as a lawyer, says it was because of his law background that he was able to lobby the way he did.

“I understand in many cases, families that don’t have the capacity to be able to negotiate and pursue that themselves would give up and not have a resolution.” 

The coroner’s report into Rebecca’s disappearance ruled she had likely died. They were unable to determine a cause of death, noting it was possibly due to environmental exposure. 

It stated that no inquest would be held because it’s believed it would not provide new information. 

Rumours continue to be whispered 

With the cases unsolved and hauntingly mysterious, many people are still pondering over what might have happened to these women. 

“[It’s] just gone to nowhere. What happened to Joanne? I would not have a clue,” Des said.

“She could have literally just gone out there in the bush and passed away after night’s heavy drinking … someone could have hit her and chucked her in the back of the ute because they didn’t want to get done for drink-drive and who’d know, someone could have actually gone and targeted her.” 

But for Evelyn, rumours among her community and family from Mataranka and afar are still alive. Sometimes they say Joanne is still alive, sometimes they speculate about the night she disappeared. 

“They were gossiping around here saying that she was drinking at the pub with a white guy,” she said. 

“A man with a car or a Toyota. I mean, one time, one person wanted to take me in a Toyota and take me away from here … Maybe [he’s] picking up Indigenous woman or something like that.”

Watch ‘Vanished’ on The Feed at 10pm, and catch up on the whole investigation on SBS On Demand

Credits

Written by Brooke Fryer 

Produced by Michelle Elias 

Video and images by Sissy Reyes 

Graphics by Patrick Forrest 

Additional reporting by Claire Aird

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