Black Deaths Matter #
Sir Ronald Wilson Stolen Generations inquiry and Deaths in Custody. “He began calling the Stolen children policy genocide, and was criticised roundly for it.” He produced the Human Rights Commission’s report on the stolen generation, Bringing Them Home.
Wilson was a ruthless prosecutor. As a judge, he stood firm on state rights even when such rights would interfere with the basic rights and liberties of Australian Aboriginals. But on retirement from the bench, as a social justice advocate, he espoused Aboriginal rights in the face of strong antipathy and government intransigence. John Button, one of the wronged criminals from Wilson’s zealous prosecution days, came to his funeral and opined: > ‘Wilson would have had some guilt at having been the person that successfully prosecuted some innocent people … and this drove him to do good deeds such as his human rights work.'
Australian Blacks #
Northern Territory’s youth justice system is a theatre of the absurd and Australia’s great shame – John B Lawrence (The Guardian): “Since the royal commission, little change has occurred either in law, the facilities or the culture. That is astonishing and symptomatic. The broken system will remain broken. It is immutable. How can this be? It’s a combination of reasons. Permeating this whole situation is racism: systemic, direct, indirect and historical. It’s all there. The simple fact is there is no way in the world this could happen to white Australian children. And if it had happened, and was later discovered by a royal commission, it would have been fixed and replaced within months.”
The Tall Man #
Life in paradise. Death in custody When Cameron Doomadgee was found dead in the Palm Island police station, his injuries were like those of someone who’d been in a fatal car crash. The police claimed he had tripped on a step. The Palm Islanders rioted and burnt down the police station. The subsequent trial of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley - who had been decorated for his work in Aboriginal communities - made headlines day after day, shadowed by Queensland police threatening to strike.
Recently the Queensland government compensated the Islanders to the tune of $30,000,000 rather than fix the system. …………………..
Julieka Ivanna Dhu #
Julieka Ivanna Dhu was a 22-year-old Australian Aboriginal woman who died in police custody in South Hedland, Western Australia, in 2014. On 2 August that year, police responded to a report that Dhu’s partner had violated an apprehended violence order.
When Coroner Ros Fogliani handed down her findings in the inquest into the death of Yamatji woman Ms Dhu, she released nearly three minutes of the footage of Ms Dhu’s final moments. Activists described Ms Dhu, like John Pat before her, as being dragged “like a dead kangaroo” from her cell, down the corridor, to the hospital.
Fogliani described those who carried Ms Dhu as “inhumane” and “unprofessional”. CCTV vision of Ms Dhu being carried and dropped was “profoundly disturbing”. The coroner considered the matter “unfortunate” some 25 times. It was “regrettable” 11 times. “Sad”, 12 times.
Assessments like those delivered by Fogliani, addressing the conduct of third parties in deaths inside, are rare.
More commonly, coroners blame ephemeral things like “disadvantage”. Even more commonly, they blame the deceased. Those who have died inside were “arrogant”, “verbally aggressive”, “difficult”, “drunk”, “brain damaged”, “impulsive”.
Outside of its pithiness and dehumanisation, the language coroners come to use about deaths inside is crucial. While coroners can’t impose any legal liability for the cases before them, they can and do use condemnatory language to express a sense of culpability – just like you and I might. That becomes important for advocates who seek justice for their loved ones.
For some reason, however, Julieka’s suffering has elicited less of our collective outrage and concern than the suffering of the animals in a Four Corners report. Far less. ………..
Four Indigenous people, including two young women in Townsville and two young men in Mt Isa, died by suicide last week, continuing a pattern of suicide and self-harm among Indigenous young people, especially those in remote areas. Senior Indigenous research fellow at Curtin University, Hannah McGlade, told NITV the government needed to establish a national action plan to address Indigenous youth suicide, saying “we need to have proper human rights-based interventions and responses to stem this problem”. ………. Intergenerational trauma and Indigenous suicides in WA “‘Despite this growing tragedy, there are still no nationally accepted suicide prevention intervention programs.’ [Tracy] Westerman, who was WA’s 2018 Australian of the Year, is highly respected in the field of Indigenous suicide prevention, having worked on the issue for two decades. ‘I think once you just have inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, the inquiry almost becomes the government’s response to suicide, rather than the programs you need,’ she says.” ………
The Guardian reports that 26-year-old Indigenous woman Cherdeena Wynne died in hospital last Tuesday, five days after being detained by police in her mother’s house in Perth. Her death comes 20 years after the woman’s father was found dead in an Albany watchhouse.
Her family have accused police of racial profiling and mistaken arrest, although police dispute allegations they did not check her ID and are not investigating the matter as a death in custody. 16/04/19
The memorial site, just out on the Delungra Road, marks the site of the massacre of 28 unarmed women, children and old men that occurred there on June 10, 1838. This is a place where terrible things occurred, a place shunned and avoided by locals, especially Aboriginal people, for over 150 years.
One could imagine that any memorial event here would be a sad and sombre affair. But while the ceremony inspires quiet reflection and deep sorrow, it also inspires a sense of hope, as we contemplate a future where reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is more than just a possibility.
It’s as if this place, with such a horrendous history, is being transformed by the people who year after year come to participate in a healing ritual. This transformation is what interests me as a researcher: how the rich ritual and recognition of our dark, shared history can heal both people and place.
Veronica Nelson May 2022 #
Police errors, no legal representation and strict bail laws: why was Veronica Nelson behind bars when she died? Inquest into Aboriginal woman’s death in custody is also examining the affects of Victoria’s punitive bail laws Police had deemed Veronica Nelson an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the safety and welfare of others despite there being no evidence she had ever acted in a violent manner, the court heard. Veronica Nelson was jailed three times in the last 12 months of her life, but had never been sentenced to a period of imprisonment as an adult.
The Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wiradjuri woman died in custody while on remand for shoplifting offences on 2 January 2020.
She had spent 80 days on remand in the previous 12 months awaiting bail for shoplifting offences – the same offences for which she was remanded in custody again on 30 December 2019, three days before her death.
At the Melbourne coroner’s court this week, an inquest into the 37-year-old’s death has been examining the circumstances surrounding her bail hearing on 31 December 2019. It has also been examining Victoria’s bail laws, which the court heard have had a significant impact on the ability of Aboriginal women who are before the court on minor offences to be granted bail.
Veronica Nelson made repeated calls for help before her death in custody, inquest hears
The evidence so far has detailed how police errors, a lack of legal representation and a change to bail laws contributed to putting Nelson behind bars.