Russell Moore Bring me home: killer's plea

Russell Moore

BEHIND prison wire on the sparse flats of western Florida, Russell Moore, an Aborigine born in North Fitzroy, passes slow days crafting little mechanical gadgets, warming himself in late autumn's fading sun and hoping his return to the land he left as a seven-year-old will soon come.

Better known in Australia as James Savage - the name given to him by the white Victorian Salvation Army couple who adopted him as an infant before taking him to Florida - he has spent 30 of his 41 years in the US locked away in institutions, beginning with reform school when he was 15.

In between jail stints, he wandered the Atlantic Coast, buried in drug and alcohol abuse. The years have weakened him. He is now a rising cost in Florida's overcrowded, ageing jail population.

His health problems and the 21 years he has served for his last crime - a woman's murder - make his Australian-born lawyers in New Orleans quietly hopeful that the long campaign to bring home perhaps the remotest member of the stolen generation is close to succeeding.

This week, Moore - he has reclaimed his birth name by deed poll - told the Herald via his lawyer: ''I want to be closer to my family. I ain't got no family over here. I haven't seen my mum since the trial. It's a long time. 'Cos of her health she can't come over here. She's getting old.''

His lawyer, Richard Bourke, left his comfortably busy criminal bar practice in Melbourne to live two-and-a-half hours away from Florida in Louisiana, where he runs a non-profit legal centre from busy rooms with paint-flaking walls in inner New Orleans.