#handsoffaboriginalkids: In Solidarity

Over the past two weeks we have been honoured to be hosted by the Jumbunna Research Institute at UTS.  This collaboration is a part of the strengthening of the relationships between Māori and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders communities and researchers committing to working in ways that affirm an intention of tino rangatiratanga and self-determination for Indigenous Nations.   We have worked together exploring and sharing Indigenous research aspirations and approaches to our work.

During the past few days we have been reminded of, seen and heard of the horrific experiences and the abuses against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on their own lands. We take a position as Māori who are guests here on the lands of the Gadigal People in Sydney to bear witness and to inform our own people of the atrocities that continue against the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

Today we stood in Solidarity at the Emergency Rally at the Town Hall. Organisers of the rally released the following statement:

Emergency rally – justice for the children tortured in Don Dale and all prisons
Sack the NT Government, sack the guards – lay charges now
Stop stealing children – build communities not prisons
Self-determination now!
The video footage on Four Corners of Aboriginal children being tortured in Don Dale correction centre have shocked the country. But this is the tip of the iceberg of the racist ‘child protection’ and prison systems that subject Aboriginal children to institutionalised child abuse across the continent on a daily basis.
Malcolm Turnbull and Adam Giles have announced a Royal Commission into the centre – but their own racist Intervention and “tough on crime” policies systematically breach the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).
Countless inquiries have already been done. We already know the facts of this case. We demand justice immediately. The prison guards responsible must be sacked and charged. So too should the NT Government who have consistently demonised and criminalised Aboriginal children and bear ultimate responsibility for this abuse. Minister Scullion also must be sacked.
Across Australia, Black children make up 50 per cent of the prison system. More children are being forcibly removed today than at any point in Australian history – taken from their families and put into foster care or prison cells.
This emergency rally will demand an end to the incarceration of children and self-determination for Aboriginal people. We need to build on the outrage and take forward the ongoing struggles against the racist police, prison and ‘child protection’ systems. #BlackLivesMatter #BuildCommunitiesNotPrisons

                                                                                                                                     

The detention and torture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth was highlighted this week on the ABC Four Corners Programme (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/07/25/4504895.htm ).

Where politicians here quickly moved to voice their ‘shock’ at this treatment, it is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, families and advocates have been raising these issues, and there has been  little if any meaningful response or action taken to protect the young Indigenous people held in these detention centres. ABC themselves have documented for over 2 years issues at the centre. For example the following stories have run on ABC since August 2014

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-23/darwin-youth-detention-centre-investigated-by-police/6796988

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-16/eleventh-escape-don-dale-as-elferink-tells-story-of-abuse/6548096

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-22/teens-tear-gassed-in-prison-clash/5690908

So for politicians and bureaucrats to voice ‘shock’ seems, at the very least, to be a deeply dishonest response to what is clearly State funded acts of abuse on the Indigenous children of this land.

It was highlighted today that the 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody remain largely unimplemented, (http://www.alrm.org.au/information/General%20Information/Royal%20Commission%20into%20Aboriginal%20Deaths%20in%20Custody.pdf )

and that the number of murders in custody of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has increased in huge numbers since the Royal Commission.  In September 2015,the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA)  (http://www.deathsincustody.org.au/ ) issued a press release with the following statement :

NOT GETTING BETTER: ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY ON THE INCREASE: JOHN PAT MEMORIAL DAY COMMEMORATES ALL DEATHS IN CUSTODY

ABORIGINAL DEATHS IN CUSTODY in Western Australia have increased in the last year, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee notes in the lead-up to John Pat Memorial Day on 28 September.

“We know of at least seven deaths in custody that have occurred since last year’s John Pat Memorial Day,” said Marc Newhouse, chair of DICWC, adding that the number would be higher once all deaths during police operations were included. “Four of these deaths were of Aboriginal people.”

Newhouse also noted that five of the seven deaths in custody had occurred in the last four months.

Speakers on the memorial day include the Reverend Sealin Garlett, members of the Watch Committee and Shaun Harris, uncle of Ms Dhu, who died in a lock-up in Port Hedland last August.

The memorial will remember not only John Pat, but all those who have died in custody. The Watch Committee is also calling for an immediate reduction in the number of women imprisoned at overcrowded Bandyup Women’s Prison, and for a movement of decarceration in response to increasing rates of imprisonment in WA. and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

“Last October the premier pledged to reduce Aboriginal incarceration in our state, yet no action has been taken,” Newhouse said. “Instead we have seen the passing of further the mandatory sentencing laws and plans to build yet more prisons in WA.”

John Pat was just 16 years old when he died in custody on 28 September 1983 at Roebourne police station. He was beaten to death by five drunk off-duty police officers. The outcry over his death led to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The majority of its 339 recommendations remain unimplemented or abandoned. Since the Royal Commission there have been more deaths in custody than recommendations.

                                                                                                                                            

As Māori women, as Indigenous mothers, as Indigenous grandmothers, as Indigenous Peoples, it is essential that we raise awareness of these acts of abuse and terror against our Indigenous relatives on this land. The stories shared at the rally were deeply saddening, and equally enraging. The pain of this ongoing act of ethnocide and genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is experienced every day across this country. Families, communities, nations experience the forced removal of children from their families, the denial of fundamental human rights, the imprisonisation of children and adults across the country in extremely disproportionate numbers, the abuse and torture in prisons and detention centres and the murder of their people in custody.

Te Wharepora Hou call on our people, both in Aotearoa and those that live on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands, to voice our outrage at these acts of genocide against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders children,  families,  communities, elders and ancestors, and to stand in solidarity with our relations to bring a change to these racist, oppressive acts.

An Open Letter to Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa: Hold the Pekapeka Block

Tena koutou katoa e nga whanaunga,

Nga mihi Puanga ki a koutou.

Over the past few weeks I have become increasingly concerned at the deal that is being supported with the NPDC by Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa. I wanted to share my concerns directly with you and I will also be sharing more widely through a range of mediums that reach Te Atiawa whanau.

In looking through the material I am yet to see or hear any meaningful reason why Te Atiawa would agree to the NPDC deal related to the Pekapeka Block. The rationale given appears to be one of a ‘this is the best we will get’ scenario which in my view, and that of our whanau, is an inadequate rationale for supporting a deal that clearly works against the best interests of the whanau, hapu and iwi of Te Atiawa.

While at home last week I talked to my mother about the block next to our whanau. As many of you will know the Pihama whanau have lived on Browne street since the late 1950’s. That property remains with our whanau. We have paid lease on that whenua for near 50 years. My father struggled to raise his whanau on our own lands while paying leasehold to those that confiscated the Pekapeka block. It was a painful experience to watch that struggle year after year and to see the impact of the trauma of that historical oppression on him and his siblings.

Having talked within our whanau over the past two weeks I have downloaded the history of sale for the property in Browne street. That is next to our whanau home. One would expect it to be leasehold but it is not. It was sold as freehold in the 1980s and then sold again in 2004. The price being half the valuation price. The question is how did this happen? and how has it happened for many sections around that area? Has Te Kotahitanga investigated or being provided with the history of those now freehold properties? I would be interested in seeing any documentation you may have for other similar properties that have been moved from leasehold to freehold as that indicates that for a number of years the council have actually been enabling this process to happen to select individuals within Waitara, and I understand have in some cases returned leasehold sections to the Housing corporation for the development of State housing. If indeed this is the case then there is even more grounds for Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa to put a hold on this current process and to re-negotiate the terms of the agreement.

In the work we are doing as a part of investigating Historical trauma and the impact on our people there is vast amounts of evidence that indicates that historical trauma events of colonisation create a context of wounding our people. Native healer and scholars Eduardo Duran and Bonnie Duran refer to this as a ‘soul wound’. Soul wounds that are not healed are passed through our whakapapa, they impact on every part of being Maori, of being Te Atiawa, they create a context where within te ira tangata the pain memories of our tupuna are passed intergenerationally. That is the impact on whanau in Waitara. That is what needs to be healed. The issue of what is happening with the Pekapeka block is not solely one of land ownership or economics, it is one of needing meaningful and enduring pathways of social justice to heal those soul wounds.

As I look at the maps of the blocks on the council documentation the name ‘Pekapeka’ does not appear. Referring to this block only as Endowment lease-lands removes an understanding of the history of land theft, the acts of colonial oppression, the imposition of colonial rule, the impact of the associated historical trauma upon generations of Te Atiawa descendants. This process of not naming the whenua is a means by which the council can then present the ‘lease lands’ as if they are just any other block of land. But this is not just any other block. This is the Pekapeka block and the name is significant within our history.

It is my view as a researcher in this area that the current deal will not only remove our ability as Te Atiawa to receive social justice, it will also further embed the pain of the historical spiritual and cultural wounds that our people carry as a result of the invasion of our lands and oppression of our peoples. As the representative body of our people you are the only ones at this point who can stop this process and return us to a pathway of meaningful negotations that will be about social justice and healing. I am happy to korero more with you and to also be a part of working through processes of seeking pathways of healing for us all as Te Atiawa whanau, hapu and iwi.

nākū noā
nā Leonie