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Writing and writers

Feb 8, 2016

The Territory's greatest living artist gets his day in Court

"I'm allowed to be here. I'm a fucking poet. I'm a poet. You cunts, I'm a fucking poet. Police brutality. I'm allowed to be here": Trevor Jenkins, Darwin Literary Awards, May 2014.


Trevor Potato Head BW

I’m one of the greatest artists and greatest thinkers in the Territory. I am. If you don’t like it, well shove it up your arse. That’s all I can fuckin’ say.

That was Trevor Jenkins, aka “Rubbish Warrior.” speaking to Justice Peter Barr of the Northern Territory Supreme Court in late December 2015. Jenkins is the fellow with the Maccas bag and a sprouting potato perched on his head above. Jenkins delivered that spray to Justice Barr on the second day of the hearing of his appeal against convictions in the Darwin Court of Summary Jurisdiction on a classic Territory trifecta of charges of trespass, assault and resist arrest following his attempt to gatecrash the Northern Territory Literary Awards in May 2014.

Jenkins had lodged an entry for the Awards but it was rejected. After an exchange of emails between Jenkins and the Award’s organiser she formed the view that Jenkins would try to attend the Awards ceremony and disrupt the event. Accordingly, she arranged with security–the Awards ceremony is held in the NT Library within the NT Parliament House precinct–to prevent Jenkins’ entry if he turned up.

Jenkins did indeed turn up and, as recorded by CCTV cameras and examined in excruciating detail by the Court of Summary Jurisdiction and in the Supreme Court on appeal, engaged the security guards in an aggressive series of exchanges. After some minutes, Jenkins managed to evade the guards and entered the ceremony to eat the hors d’oeuvres and mingle with what passes for the literati in Darwin. The Police soon arrived and placed Jenkins under arrest for trespassing, whereupon Jenkins fell to the ground and started yelling “I’m allowed to be here. I’m a fucking poet. I’m a poet. You cunts, I’m a fucking poet. Police brutality. I’m allowed to be here.

Jenkins was then, as they say in Police-speak, conveyed to the local watch-house, swearing all the while. While being processed in the watch-house he told a female officer at the desk that she was “a fat cunt that eats MacDonalds all the time.

Jenkins has been a fixture around Darwin’s long grass for the past few years. His biggest claim to fame–thus far–is the series of True Detective-style creations (sculptures?) that he litters around Darwin streets, constructed of stray sticks and palm-fronds and often topped with a Coke can or an iced coffee carton. He has had a series of brushes with the law, including an alleged graffiti attack on the Darwin Magistrates Court in 2013 and an arrest for causing a disturbance at an Australia Day ceremony in 2014.

In 2012 Jenkins ran as a candidate for Mayor of Darwin City Council on a ticket of “Vote 1 – Homeless Bum” and won around 12 per cent of the primary vote. He auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent but didn’t get past the first round. In 2014 Jessie Gohier-Fleet made a quite lovely little film about Jenkins and his art practice that took out the Best Cinematography award at the NT Fistful of Films festival.

Justice Barr’s decision in Trevor Jenkins v Walter Todd [2016] NTSC 4 is not yet available online but I will post a link when it is. The quotes above appear in the written decision of the court.

At first instance in the Court of Summary Jurisdiction the hearing of the charges against Jenkins took six days between December 2014 and March 2015. On appeal in the Supreme Court the matter took another six days, though in neither case does it appear that each appearance took up a whole day of the court’s time on each occasion.

Justice Barr is a careful and patient judge–his judgement runs to 56 pages–and he is well-aware of the difficulties faced by both the court and the appellant when, particularly on appeal, a litigant is unrepresented by counsel.

In his written decision Justice Barr notes the:

… difficulties in assessing, on appeal, the merits of the appellant’s submissions about the facts in evidence and his claims of procedural unfairness in the court below. Where a self-interested advocate has no professional ethical standards, everything said should be taken with caution, yet the possibility of some proper legal ground of appeal cannot be overlooked.

Indeed. Jenkins was successful in his appeal against conviction for resist police, albeit on a technicality.

It helps to be truthful in court.  Telling the judge you won’t be back in court the next day because your mother had died and you had to attend her funeral in Sydney, and then eventually confessing that “As far as I know she’s still alive, Mr Barr” doesn’t help your cause much.

It is also useful to remember that the judge has the last say. Here is the first paragraph of Justice Barr’s decision.

This appeal hearing demonstrated the difficulties of doing justice in the case of a self-represented appellant who demands to be tolerated and understood, perhaps even indulged, as a homeless man without resources, but who has an extraordinary sense of entitlement, is obsessed with his perceived artistic and literary greatness, arrogant and unreasonable, extremely disrespectful to the Bench, untruthful in his statements from the Bar table, unreliable and selective in his submissions, and given to vituperative outbursts when questions were asked of him which exposed flaws in his arguments.


Photo: Henry’s Mobile Studio


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2 thoughts on “The Territory’s greatest living artist gets his day in Court

  1. Bob the builder

    However mad, weird or even untalented he might be, it’s pretty typical of literary and arts fest that anyone not fitting the mould will be excluded. Pretty shameful though that the boss of this particular little event connived with security to prevent the entry of a mad poet, then called the cops on him.

  2. Hector Lung

    Hey, that first paragraph could describe several NT lawyers. barring the bit about homlessness, lawyers don’t do homelessness.


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