Tristan FRANK



Missing since: 
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Last seen: 
Tanami, WA
Responsible jurisdiction: 
Year of birth: 


Tristan Frank travelled from the Nyirripi Community, Northern Territory to Balgo Community, Tanami, Western Australia arriving on 1 December 2020. Whilst residing in the Community Tristan has left his temporary residence and not been seen since 3 December 2020. Tristan has not contacted family since and Police hold significant concerns for his welfare.

Cross-border search for Tristan Frank, 14, who is missing in remote East Kimberley

By Hannah Barry

A cross-border search for a 14-year-old missing from a remote community in the East Kimberley has been scaled back.

Northern Territory boy Tristan Frank was reported missing near Balgo community on December 3 and concerns have steadily risen for him as the search stretched into its eighth day.

Authorities have carried out urban and land searches over thousands of kilometres of desert and isolated tracks but there has been no sign of him.

Inspector Peter Jenal said authorities had made the difficult decision to suspend the search for the remainder of Friday as bad weather came through, but local police and the community would continue to look for Tristan.

"We will continue to search in the next few days, and if any further information comes to light police will certainly act on that," he said.

"It's been quite daunting for our staff and we do appreciate the work they've been doing out there."

A thunderstorm was expected to cross the East Kimberley late on Friday and early Saturday, bringing with it flash flooding and winds expected to reach up to 45 kilometres per hour.

Thousands of kilometres searched

Over the past week, police have gone door to door in the Balgo and Billiluna communities, with officers from Halls Creek also joining the search.

A search-and-rescue plane was sent from Canberra and tasked with aerial surveillance on Tuesday evening and a drone operator from Perth was monitoring the region.

State emergency services also helped efforts and Northern Territory police put out a plea for information on its social media channels.

Balgo and Billiluna residents have joined local police on the job, and Inspector Jenal said they would continue to help look for Tristan even as the weather passed over.

He said police were extremely thankful for their ongoing help.

Tristan is described as 160 centimetres tall with a slight build, dark brown hair and dark-coloured eyes.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts should immediately contact police on 131 444.


Aboriginal 'spirit man' called in to try to find teenager Tristan Frank missing in the outback

Relatives of a teenage boy missing in outback Western Australia believe he has been taken by spirits, who have secreted him away in the hot deserts of the Kimberley.

Fourteen-year-old Tristan Frank was last seen in the Balgo community, in the Tanami Desert, in early December.

The teenager lives in a community across the Northern Territory border but stopped off to stay with relatives in Balgo while his grandparents travelled west to attend a funeral.

Senior Sergeant Charlie Moylan, who heads the Balgo police station, says there have not been any sightings of him in the six weeks since.

"WA Police have conducted an immediate, coordinated and planned search," he said.

"No information has been received from outside community that the missing boy has been sighted or believed to be in any other area."

Calling on higher power

In the absence of a breakthrough, several theories are circulating in local communities.

Could young Tristan have hitched a ride to a small bush outstation across the Northern Territory border?

Or perhaps he went for a walk and became disorientated in the dizzying heat of the Tanami Desert.

The dominant belief is that Aboriginal spirits have taken him, and are concealing him in the rolling sand dunes.

The case highlights the sensitive cultural environment in which police and search agencies operating in northern Australia have to comply with both government protocols and Indigenous cultural practices when responding to critical incidents like death and disappearances.

Similar issues were revealed in a series of inquests held recently in northern WA, as well as in the case of an Aboriginal elder whose remains were located in mysterious circumstances almost a decade after his disappearance.

Locals are reluctant to discuss the situation publicly but have told ABC a number of steps have been taken to try to ensure the teenager's safe return.

That includes inviting a "maban", or traditional healing man, to the area, to try to reason with the spirits.

At a nearby cave, a stop-motion camera has been set up to try to record any appearance by Tristan Frank.

Why don't more people know about Tristan?

There has been relatively little coverage of Tristan Frank's disappearance, partly because the family has declined to comment on the situation.

Loren O'Keeffe, who heads the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, says geography and ethnicity can affect how much public engagement there is in a case.

"In a remote part of the country like the Kimberley, I can't even imagine how overwhelming the task must be for Tristan's family [to try to find him]," she said.

"When the search comes to an end, it does fall on the family and local community to maintain the awareness and the searching, and it can be a really overwhelming burden.

Police are asking anyone with information about Tristan's whereabouts to contact Crime Stoppers WA, or Balgo police station directly.