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Thoughts turn to healing as boy farewelled

AAP logoAAP 27/09/2016 Rebecca Le May

Hundreds of people have farewelled Elijah Doughty, the 14-year-old Aboriginal boy whose death sparked racially charged riots in Kalgoorlie last month.

Police numbers were boosted for Elijah's funeral on Tuesday afternoon at Maku Stadium, which his mourning mother was allowed to attend after prison authorities granted her leave.

City of Kalgoorlie chief executive John Walker said her call for peace had helped keep the mood calm.

The riots and racial tensions have left the WA gold-mining town contemplating ways to heal deep wounds.

More than 400 people were estimated to have gathered for the funeral.

A 55-year-old man was charged with manslaughter after Elijah was allegedly run down by a ute while riding a stolen motorcycle, prompting hours of rioting outside the Kalgoorlie courthouse and the deliberate torching of the accused's rental home.

The accused will face court again on Wednesday.

Mr Walker said there was only a small cohort of troublesome youths in the town and serious thought was being given to practical, novel ways to steer them away from repeat offending.

"It's not as bad as has been reported but it's a serious issue, and the underlying problems are very serious," he told AAP.

Mr Walker criticised Attorney-General Michael Mischin for a whistle-stop tour of the town the day after the unrest, when he labelled the participants a lynch mob and met courthouse guards but not the council.

The mayor's call to Premier Colin Barnett to visit Kalgoorlie had gone unheeded, he said.

WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls had met with councillors and canvassed ideas that he promised to raise with fellow MPs.

There was no shortage of government funds for indigenous services, Mr Walker said, but to deliver what was really wanted, programs needed to be more targeted and arranged in consultation with Aboriginal people.

He cited the town of Bourke in NSW, where the problem of youths stealing cars is being tackled with free driving lessons.

"That seems to be working really, really well," he said.

Mr Walker said motorcycles may figure in a Kalgoorlie version, given the passion for riding among local teens.

He said a positive development was the pending re-opening of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs office in Kalgoorlie, which was closed 18 months ago, leaving co-ordination of services in the hands of the Geraldton office - a 900km drive away.

The cost-cutting decision was reversed by Education Minister Peter Collier in March when there were a string of assaults at the local high school.

Mr Collier promised to reopen the office in December, but Elijah's death has brought that forward to next month.

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