Heartbreak, racist posts after teens drown

Four of the teen boys jumped into the water, but Jack and Chris struggled and did not resurface.
Four of the teen boys jumped into the water, but Jack and Chris struggled and did not resurface.

Two Aboriginal boys who drowned in Perth's Swan River after diving in to evade police are being remembered as essentially good kids who made mistakes, but some are saying they brought it on themselves.

Chris Drage, 16, and Jack Simpson, 17, were among five boys police chased on foot following reports of teenagers jumping fences after a burglary in Maylands on Monday afternoon.

Four of them jumped into the water and two were captured but Jack and Chris struggled in the middle of the river and did not resurface.

Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington said some social media posts about the deaths were vile and constituted racial vilification.

One tweet read: "If they weren't doing the wrong thing, they'd still be alive. Let's call it for what it is."

Other comments, however, were more inflammatory, Mr Eggington said.

"It proves to me there is this underlying current of extremism - what I call entrenched colonial racism," Mr Eggington told AAP on Wednesday.

"It's worse than discrimination, it's something much more evil."

Mr Eggington said the posts were a repeat of offensive social media comments that followed the 2016 death of Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty, 14, who was riding a stolen motorcycle when a Caucasian man ran him down in a ute.

Social media had provided a platform for people to air and cultivate hatred, and should be better moderated to keep offensive views "around their BBQs", Mr Eggington said.

"It propagates, it perpetuates this type of thinking."

Mullewa Football Club president Mick Wall spoke fondly of Jack, who had played for the club for about 18 months while dividing his time between the Mid West, where his father lives, and Perth, where his mother resides.

"He just improved every game, getting better and better," Mr Wall told AAP.

Mr Wall said he'd miss Jack, who was "getting into a fair bit of trouble in Perth" with a group of friends but improved when he was in the country "and mixed with the right kids".

Everyone made mistakes in their youth, he added.

"He was an infectious young man, always smiling. He was a little character.

"What a waste."

Indigenous rights advocate Mervyn Eades described Chris as "a beautiful kid".

"He loved his motorbikes, his mates, his mum," Mr Eades told The Australian.

"His story is similar to a lot of young Aboriginal people - he lacked opportunities but he had the potential for a great future."

The deaths come two months after WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson issued a historic apology to indigenous people mistreated by the force.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt said the tragedy highlighted larger social issues and the state government would work with indigenous leaders and Mr Dawson to improve relationships.

"This is a tragedy that should not have happened," Mr Wyatt told AAP.

Australian Associated Press