Aboriginal rights remain abysmally absent in Australia. Despite countless formal reports and slack police investigations, the reality for us Aboriginal people in this country is the consistent denial of justice, systemic oppression, and vilification for resisting this oppression. That’s why I’m rallying in Sydney on Wednesday 21 August to say that Black Lives Matter – and here’s why I think you should too.
Racism against Aboriginal people is deeply institutionalised. In the eyes of the Australian state, being Aboriginal means you have a target on your back. Everything basic – education, healthcare, food, housing, work – is far, far worse for Aboriginal people.
The rate at which our children are stolen today exceeds that of the period of British colonisation. Aboriginal people are still disproportionately incarcerated; we make up 3% of the Australian population, while representing 28% of Australia’s prison population. NSW Police data has revealed that more than half of the youth targeted by police secret blacklists are Aboriginal. And so, last year in June, it was absolutely disgusting (but not out of step with business as usual) to find that 100% of the youth locked up in the Northern Territory were Aboriginal.
Aboriginal men, women and children are degraded, policed, slandered, brutalised, or even murdered, for doing things that others would get a slap on the wrist for. A majority (56%) of the people who died in custody hadn’t been convicted of a crime, hadn’t been charged with a crime – hell, most weren’t actually formally arrested. Since the 1991 report from the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody, about 407 Aboriginal people have died in prisons and police cells. We have to call out the racist criminal injustice system for these murders.
We Face Ongoing Push Back
This crisis has been endemic since colonisation in 1788. The campaign against Black Deaths in Custody started by Arthur and Leila Murray in the 1980s won 338 recommendations coming out of the Royal Commission. But state governments have largely ignored these recommendations, and the murders continue.
This sends us a pretty explicit message: that in Australia, black lives don’t matter. It also tells us that racism is embedded into the very fabric of this nation and its governing institutions. The racism of the cops, the courts, parliament, the media, (the list could go on) is systemic. It’s not just a few bad apples. The system is rotten to its very core.
Our Families Are At The Centre Of This
I’m rallying for my family, for the three cousins of mine; 16-year old Colleen Walker-Craig, 4-year old Evelyn Greenup, and 16-year old Clinton Speedy-Duroux. They were all the victims of a racist police and court system. But I’m also rallying for other families. Like the Chatfields; their son Tane Chatfield was found dead in a police cell in Tamworth in 2017. 22-years old, a family of his own and two years into remand custody in NSW, Tane Chatfield was killed by the racist criminal injustice system only days after his first trial.
NSW Corrective services didn’t alert Chatfield’s family of his seizure immediately, and after a hospital visit, they made him stay alone in his cell – a couple of days later he was found unresponsive there. The Chatfields are still demanding answers about their son’s death. Guardian Australia’s “Deaths Inside” database reveals that 147 Aboriginal people died in custody across Australia between 2008 and 2018. More than half – including Tane Chatfield – hadn’t been convicted of a crime. The police and the courts never took his family seriously.
We Need Everyone
This is a public protest organised by family members of Aboriginal men, women and children who have been victims of police brutality in prison, or victims whose cases have stalled or gone cold due to Government racism and inaction.
I’ll be demanding justice on the streets at Sydney Town Hall. As Black Panther activist and socialist Angela Davis said: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, you have to be anti-racist.”
Aboriginal resistance has always been behind any rights we’ve won. Solidarity is key to victory – and we’d love everyone to stand with us, and help us make a difference.
The Black Lives Matter rally will take place at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday, August 21. You can grab more details here.
Image Sources: Black Lives Matter GoFundMe Page