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
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
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.