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HomeIssue 24Black lives: generations pass; racism, custody deaths continue

Black lives: generations pass; racism, custody deaths continue




Black Lives Matter rallies held around the world protesting the death of George Floyd – the black American who died in Minneapolis with the knee of a police officer on his neck, crying out “I can’t breathe” – have been notable for the dominant presence of young people.


It was no different in Alice Springs, where three to four hundred people turned up at the Courthouse Lawns on Saturday in solidarity with protesters in America but also to protest black deaths in custody in our own country.


Young voices were the strongest, young supporters the most numerous. It seemed we were witnessing a changing of the guard.


After the welcomes and smoking, veteran activist Vincent Forrester was one of the first to the microphone. He called on young First Nations people to stand up: “You got a little bit of rights, a little bit of education nowadays from our hard work, things that we’ve done, you’ve got things like Land Rights – we done that.”


There was prolonged clapping in acknowledgement.


“I’m one of the last men standing now, most of my old colleagues are now dead, where are you young people coming on? You’ve got to have some fire in your belly!”


From the Strong Grandmothers Group, Pat Ansell Dodds presided over the smoking ceremony. 


He didn’t have long to wait.


Jody Kopp heard the call: “My fire is starting too.”


Not so young, but young people were weighing heavily on the mind of this mother, grandmother, sister, aunty.


Vince had thanked “from the bottom of my heart” all the young white people who had shown up. Jody Kopp acknowledged them too.


“But you know, the difference between me and my white brothers and sisters, every time that phone rings at three, four o’clock in the morning, I’m in a terror, I’m scared thinking what’s on the other end of that line for me.


“Are they ringing to tell me something is going on with one of my kids, particularly my black son who’s actually white as snow?”


She evoked the hurt and grief of “our deaths in custody” and what has been a lack of solidarity, particularly in the matter of getting justice for those deaths.


She had a message for “all my sons and daughters in this audience today … all my rainbow kids”:  “This is about education. It’s about educating yourselves so that you can stand up with your white brothers and sisters and have a strong voice and know you know what the hell you are talking about.”


Whistles, cheers, clapping.


“Education is the key to power, okay? And power is the strength to be able to say and do whatever you want to do because you know what you are talking about.”


Jody Kopp on the microphone, a protester from South Sudan by her side. 


And in perfect illustration of her point came Kira Voller, who seems to have honed in herself the strength to be able to say what she needs to –  and to know what the hell she is  talking about.


Early in her speech she addressed the matter of her light skin, as if to get that out of the way: “As a First Nations woman in this country I consider myself black because my ancestors are black, my Dad’s black, my Mum’s black and I often find myself looking for my secret white family because society has made me feel that if my skin is so light I must have a white parent somewhere.


“But this is a result of the attempted genocide of my people, they tried to breed the colour out of us. Now that we are using it in a way that serves ourselves and advocates for our blackness people don’t want us to identify with it.”


She also spoke of society’s picking and choosing about when black lives matter: “You know there’s these organisations and festivals that employ us First Nations people , they want us to work for them, they want all of our Aboriginality and culture, but when police killings or systemic injustice happens, they don’t support our struggle, turn a blind eye and act as if they play no part in the systemic racism that occurs.”


She was always going to be speaking at this rally, being one of the key organisers along with the Strong Grandmothers Group and their supporters. But getting to the point of finding her voice in public had been a long time coming, out of nerves in part and “out of fear of being judged, or me and my family or my kids being targeted”.


The Voller name is known to households around the nation now, after the treatment of her brother Dylan in detention and later in adult prison – exposed by the ABC’s Four Corners – helped precipitate the Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention and Child Protection in the Northern Territory.


This Royal Commission changed the course of Kira’s young life – she was 22 at the time – just as the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had been a major milestone in Vince Forrester’s long history of activism. In 1993, he told the crowd, he had presented the Royal Commission findings on black deaths in custody to the United Nations, yet they are still happening.


434  of them since 1991, revised up from 432 just this week by the Guardian’s Deaths Inside database.


Kira Voller calmed her nerves by first reading a poem, which began: When you see me out here with my signs / blocking your streets, taking up your time / know this: this isn’t fun for me / to see the pain and hear the grief / of a mother who’s lost her son / or a daughter who’s lost her mum.


For Kira since the 2016 Royal Commission, advocacy for families “all over the country who have lost loved ones at the hands of police” has taken over her life just as it has for “so many other young people around the country and the world”: “They are putting their lives on hold because of this huge injustice towards our people.”


It weighs heavily on her. At twenty-six years old, she spoke of being tired and heavy-hearted, of feeling numb.


“I grew up as a First Nations child in this country and I grew up dealing with racism and I guess I understood it was a part of my life and it was going to be, but after seeing the Royal Commission and seeing how much pain and trauma they [Corrections officers] were willing to inflict on my brother and those other boys in Don Dale, that’s something that I can’t unsee. And I’ve been pretty numb since then and haven’t really expressed my feelings.”


She was expressing them now, her voice strong and clear, but at times choking back sobs, wiping tears from her face.


“I feel like the two years after Four Corners aired was just a blur. My son was just born and to remember those first two years of his life I have to look back at photos on my phone, which is really sad for me but that’s how it is.


“Everything was just so full of emotions and rage because I was afraid my brother would die.”


During this time she became friends with Latoya Rule, who was advocating for Dylan Voller in  Adelaide before her own brother Wayne Fella Morrison died on 26 September 2016, allegedly restrained and held down by prison officers, while on remand in Yatala Prison in South Australia. (The coronial enquiry into his death is ongoing).


Kira has connected with family members of other deaths in custody victims in this time. She listed their names, Tanya Day, Tane Chatfield, Miss Dhu, Wayne Fella Morrison.


Kira reading her speech, Savannah Tomlins standing alongside. 


She spoke of the 2007 Intervention and the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act as setting the tone for for treating First Nations people as “second class citizens” and worse, for setting the tone for what happened to Kumunjayi Walker (allegedly shot in Yuendumu by a police officer who has been charged with his murder) and for the detention of all the First Nations children “sitting in Don Dale right now” – an “asbestos-ridden prison that they deemed unsafe for adult inmates”.


“Ten years old is the legal age that they can lock up babies. My daughter is ten years old (her voice breaks) … Tomorrow George Floyd could be a 10 year old Aboriginal kid in the NT.  A kid can have a bad day because they’re a kid. It’s the police’s job to get them the help they need, not take their life.”


Here she is referring to the excuse offered by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller for the violent arrest of a First Nations 16-year-old last week. 


“That’s why I’m so scared,” said Kira. “RJ, my son, is only four years old (she fights tears) and I am trying so hard to teach him to hold his anger in and control his emotions. I’m scared that he’s going to get angry one day and be labelled the angry violent black boy …”


There was cheering and clapping as she spoke about the importance of children being able to express their emotions.


“I have to hold back my own emotions in front of them to keep them safe and I feel that I am so sick of holding my emotions in because I am angry. But people make me feel like I have a choice to feel the way that I do, when I don’t.


“I fear for my children’s lives as many First Nations mothers here would be feeling for their children’s lives every day … A ten year old white child could have a bad day, lose their cool, break something in the school and the consequence wouldn’t be a property damage charge, the consequence wouldn’t be a court date …


“I feel like I’ve got six years to teach RJ to control his anger so that he doesn’t come on the end of a police officer’s bad day.”


A woman who introduced herself only as Mary had come from South Sudan as a refugee and was grateful to Australia for that, but “we would want to see you to pull up your socks, because we rely on you, we want you to be the advocates for those countries that are doing injustices”.


Kira spoke of the way First Nations children in this town “are looked at as criminals” and “targets” (presumably for reprisals): “And all the business owners and the people that own houses that post on the Open Forum [Facebook page] , they incite this violence, they set that standard for other people to be able to look at a black child and look at them as a criminal.”


She was crying, the crowd was clapping in solidarity.


“That stuff impacts us psychologically, it makes people not want to own their blackness, it makes us not want to stand strong because that hurts.”


As young as she is herself, she urged all the young people there to listen to their Elders, their stories, their heartbreaks, which they won’t find in the history books.


“White kids can feel empowered” by stories of “their grandparents going off to war”: “We all have these grandparents that have fought these wars for generations – the Frontier Wars and these battles [like the one we were witnessing] every day. So it’s up to us to take their stories and turn them into history and to carry that.”


More clapping as she kept going: “It’s so nice for white people because they get to sit down with their grandparents and listen to all these beautiful stories of ‘back in my day’ and for us it’s not like that, it hurts.”


She had some ideas for change, in addition to justice for those who have died in custody and the clear demand, expressed by others too, to raise the age of criminal responsibility.


Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves from Yuendumu, where Kumunjayi Walker was killed.  “We are standing here with Floyd … for our black lives … we are losing them [our beloved young people] … kartiya [non-Indigenous people] are destroying us slowly … Enough is enough!”


Her angriest words had been reserved for police – “fuck the police” – but it was “not aimed at the person in the uniform [but] at the system that it upholds which is a racist system in every aspect whether it’s schooling, gaol, heath care”.


Now she called on police officers – “if you consider yourself a good police officer” – to call out their co-workers on racist behaviour, as some police have done in Western Australia and South Australia: “That’s where it needs to start.”


And she urged everyone present to start having the difficult conversations in their household about “what racism is and what it means”.


She stood by a trembling young Arrernte Warlpiri woman, Savannah Tomlins, as she read a statement on behalf of the family of David Dungay who died in Long Bay held down by prison guards, crying “I can’t breathe” – they say 20 times in the last nine minutes of his life.


And she herself read a statement by her friend Latoya Rule, sister of Wayne Fella Morrison. This wasn’t the end of the rally, but these words seem to sum up its demands:


“Justice is not individual convictions, justice is the dismantling of state-sanctioned violence and brutality by corrections and police towards Indigenous, black and peoples of colour communities.


“Black lives only seem to matter when they are loud, thought-provoking, resisting, strong, revolutionary. So let’s keep it that way.


“Do not be silent, do not waste the gift that is the breath in your lungs when our siblings have had their breath taken away.”





  1. The audience was mostly non Aboriginal with a handful of Aboriginal activists.
    Numerous Aboriginal people, most from communities, strolled past paying no attention at all.
    A refugee from Sudan welcomed to our town and provided with employment and generous support tells us to “pull up our socks”?
    Shame on the lot of them.

  2. “Black lives matter” is surely a racist phrase.
    If it isn’t then perhaps a better phrase would be “All lives matter” although having said that there was little respect for others with little or no regard for adequate social distancing at this rally.
    Words such as racist and selfish, spring to mind.

  3. The deaths in custody complaint falls somewhat flat in the NT because Aboriginal prisoners have less chance of passing away compared to the free cohort.
    Group rather than individually housed prisoners are much less likely to self harm or suicide.
    No drinking or smoking, regular meals and medical and dental checkups ensure good health.
    Enforced exercise also contributes.
    All diabetics take their meds compared with low compliance outside the prison.

  4. It’s a great joke.
    The Aboriginal people turn every news event to suit themselves.
    I don’t see any reporting on an Indigenous male being bashed to death by Indigenous males on Friday and the “payback“ to another Indigenous male on Monday.
    “Black Live Don’t Matter” when it comes to the Australian Aboriginal.

  5. Every time your phone rings at 3 or 4am? Whose phone rigs at that time?
    Obviously most of the time it does it is not the bad news she is fearing. Does this happen a lot? That seems very strange.
    So many accusations based on how others feel, presenting statements that are not open to scrutiny, just presented as fact?
    No mention of the latest figures, just divisive, accusations to further divide our town. Nothing about the yearly police Officer of the Year awards, making a huge difference to the lives of communities and Aboriginal kids, just hatred and ignorance of the opportunities that many of the Aboriginal people in this town enjoy through their own efforts and desire to better themselves.
    Twenty-five years have passed since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).
    The latest research examines the trends and characteristics of Indigenous deaths in custody since 1991–92, using data obtained through the National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP).
    NDICP data show Indigenous people are now less likely than non-Indigenous people to die in prison custody, largely due to a decrease in the death rate of Indigenous prisoners from 1999–2000 to 2005–06.
    Coinciding with this decrease in the death rate of Indigenous prisoners is a decrease in the hanging death rate of Indigenous prisoners.
    Monitoring trends and characteristics of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous deaths in custody supports the development of proactive strategies addressing this important issue.
    The paper is available and catalogued under ISBN: 978 1 922009 41 8.

  6. Thank you for reporting on this with lots of quotes from these generous and vulnerable speakers, Kieran.
    I mean vulnerable in the sense that to make views known in this town is so brave when you know you open yourself up to the vicious strain of racism and denial that exists here, evidenced in the comments on this thread.
    It’s something that white supporters and people who have listened and understood need to do privately with people we connect with.
    Silence on these matters is complicity.
    I’m so excited to read of the defunding of the police department in Minneapolis – and excited for the future here for community justice, what will surely be a slow and tender process of creating safety, compassionate modes of addressing violence and listening, listening, listening.

  7. So disturbing to see the entrenched bigotry of our town evident in the thread of comments below. What does it say about this community when commenting locals (Beth a notable exception) voice a complete lack of compassion or empathy for people who clearly experience deep rooted discrimination and suffering.
    The paradigm/pattern of viewing any fellow human being as ‘other’, as mattering less than members of your own family, has to shift.

  8. NT Aboriginal students taking a first year medical course to become doctors failed at twice the rate of non Aboriginal students.
    A clear case of racism they loudly complained.
    Every teacher of Aboriginal students in the Territory is accused of racist behaviour on a regular basis.
    “You don’t like black people” is a common response to a teacher saying no.
    The word racist has been debased and weaponised.
    That’s a great pity because to avoid racism we all need to know what it is and be vigilant.

  9. I believe it was the indigenous leader Vincent Forrester [ED– It was actually Jody Kopp, as reported] at the rally who emphasised the importance of education, well done this is so important, I could not agree more. When are we going to have more indigenous teachers teaching in the remote communities? When are we going to incorporate some of the indigenous knowledge into the curriculum. Like knowledge and skills of bush tracking, finding bush foods, cultural stories and dance?
    Black lives do matter, absolutely true. All lives matter, absolutely true. Why argue about two truths?
    The important issue is people should not die unnecessarily. All Australians should work towards this, instead of arguing about two truths.
    Now for the facts as I know it.

    The Australian Institute of Criminology has coordinated the National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP) since its establishment in 1992, the result of a recommendation made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody the previous year.

    The latest report was published 20/02/2020. Here is the link to this report.

    I have read the entire report. There is a lot of other detail and data back to 1980, in the report, so if you do not have a lot of time, look at “Indigenous Status” starting on page 3 and Tables C4 and C5 starting on page 31.

    It clearly demonstrates that more Non indigenous Australians die in custody than indigenous Australians. It also shows the rate of deaths per 100 prisoners for non-indigenous is consistently higher than indigenous since 2003.

    Finally in my humble opinion the death rate of all people in custody in Australia is very low. It is less than 0.2%. This death rate also includes, natural deaths like heart attack, stroke and cancer. I know the police and jail officers are not perfect in the area of racial prejudice. There are some people not suited for the position. Their job is one of the toughest in Australia and I am so impressed they do an amazing job.

  10. There is only an human race and consequently the fundamental equality of all human beings and all peoples.
    All peoples and all human groups, whatever their composition or ethnic origin, contribute according to their own genius to the progress of the civilisations and cultures which, in their plurality and as a result of their interpenetration, constitute the common heritage of mankind.
    When are we going to learn?

  11. Am I missing something here?
    Of all the 2,608 deaths in police or correctional custody bewteen 1980 and 2015, 19% of deaths were Aboriginal people.
    81% to non-indigenous people?
    As quoted……..

    Latest deaths in custody data now available on Crime Statistics Australia
    The National Deaths in Custody Program report: Deaths in custody in Australia 2013–14 and 2014–15, released today, is available on the Crime Statistics Australia website—the interactive gateway to statistics and information on Australian crime and justice issues.

    With a range of infographics and graphs detailing the latest findings, the data is accessible for government and law enforcement agencies to inform policies that protect Australians within our justice system.

    The National Deaths in Custody Program collects information on deaths that occurred in prison, in police custody and in custody-related operations throughout Australia.

    Since 1979–80, a total of 2,608 deaths in custody have occurred in Australia, with 1,600 deaths occurring in prison and 985 deaths occurring in police custody and custody-related operations.
    There have been 18 deaths in youth detention or welfare facilities and five deaths in other criminal justice settings.
    Of the 2,608 people who have died in custody since 1979–80, 500 were Indigenous and 2,104 were of non-Indigenous background.

    This suggests far less aboriginal people die in custody, on an indigenous/non-indigenous percentage basis, than non-aboriginal people.
    Or, as I mentioned in my opening, am I missing something here?
    And I agree with Jack1, all fatters, independent of race/colour/religion/creed….

  12. @Corinne Milich, posted June 9, 2020 at 9:27 am: No – because it will be designed collaboratively – not by me.

  13. @ Pip McManus: It is more complex than bigotry, Pip.
    For those with Netflix, watch Oranges and Sunshine and you may understand the “other” side a little more.

  14. “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to what black people have to say on the subject, but why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. People of colour are betrayed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe leaking from the residents of the apartment below. This failing system makes their lives impossible, but it is not up to them to fix it. They can’t, because no one will let them live in the apartment above. It’s a white problem. And if the whites don’t fix it, someone’s going to have to come up and break down the door.” Banksy [internationally renowned street artist].

  15. Correction. Netflix in Australia don’t have the movie. It is on DVD, Apple TV and Amazon.

  16. Consider the fact that the police force in Australia were conceived in order to a) preserve and protect private property and b) restrict the freedoms of the poorest classes in order to maintain their subjugation so their labour could continue to be easily extracted.
    Now consider that any private property the police were protecting in Australia was a) stolen and b) was underpinned by a mode of possessing specific to the European settler-state.
    The police still operate in this way today.
    By enforcing the logic of the settler-state, the police sustain a system that punishes those that possess alternative value structures.
    We see this in the extraordinary number of Aboriginal people living below the poverty line, we see this in Aboriginal deaths in custody, we see this in the constant harassment of Aboriginal people by police, we see this in the disproportionate number of Aboriginal people in prison.
    We cannot look at a statistic that tells us that 100% of inmates in youth prisons in NT are Aboriginal and not see a corrupt and discriminatory system and a violent and racist police force that upholds it.
    No freedoms have ever been given to Aboriginal people.
    They have been forced to take freedom for themselves, always with immense struggle. It’s time we, as uninvited settlers, listen properly, so we can learn how to help make that struggle much, much easier.

  17. @ GC. I can look at incarceration and recidivism statistics and not see a corrupt system and a violent and racist police force that upholds it.
    I see very sharp cultural differences.
    Not drive your car to the funeral of a close relative because it is unregistered and your licence has been suspended?
    Pay a fine when family need the money?
    Nearly impossible!
    Not drink when your relatives are drinking?
    Very difficult.
    Not carry out your duty to punish according to Aboriginal law?
    etc etc.

  18. I find it difficult trying to bring a child up to be caring and compassionate to all races when they constantly are racially abused, spat on and get provoked for fights every other day from some in this town. The only way to get respect if to give respect, until then nothing will change.
    Also you can’t say you want help but then not take it when offered. Schooling has always been the key factor. Go to school and get an education and make the kind of changes you want to see or don’t go to school and end up nowhere.
    And painting all police with the same brush is exactly what they don’t want done to them but they are happy to do that to the police.

  19. @ Ralph Folds.
    Right, so if the system cannot accomodate those cultural differences, that to me is a form of violence. It presents a binary of conformity or punishment with no sensitivity to alternatives. Without ceding the power that white people have cultivated through that form of oppression, then that system remains corrupt – we profit while others are punished for cultural difference.

  20. What a shame GC starts off with a completely incorrect statement about the establishment of Police in Australia and then goes on to denigrate NT Police along with Ralph Folds by describing them as racist, violent and corrupt. I know we have freedom of speech in the country but to be able to make such a sweeping and deplorable statement like this is not only deplorable but an outright lie.
    Like any organisation there may be certain members who do not uphold the values and ethics of the organisation, but to generalise the men and women on the NT Police is a slap in the face for every one of them, who commit themselves to the safety and protection of those in the community they serve. You cannot work effectively in a remote place like the Territory unless you are trusted and respected. Many of the police in these postings have earned this respect over the years through hard work and understanding.
    For anybody to denigrate the work of our outstanding Officers, who put their lives on the line every single time they put on the uniform, is a disgrace. Take the time occasionally to read the judgement decisions or sentencing remarks from the NT Courts website and you may begin to understand the horrific violence and trauma many of these Officers deal with, protecting the victim and taking the (often) violent offender into custody, where the law is applied through the courts, regardless of colour, often after more than one warning.
    With all the crap we are going through, I believe that NT Police members are some of the best in the country and have the respect of me, my friends of many different backgrounds and most likely more Aboriginal people than these detractors would want to believe. The posters of this divisive drivel need to hang their heads in shame, for they are a major part of the problem.

  21. Erwin and Kieran. This article has generated sharply polarised positions on the NT police in the comments so far.
    Perhaps to add perspective and balance, you could consider an article based on interviews with individual police officers, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.
    Without their personal views being sought, they have to silently cop criticism that must be extremely hurtful for them personally as they go about their daily duties.
    I have known some wonderful police officers in the NT.
    I can only imagine the pain they must be feeling right now.

  22. Thanks Kieran and Alice Springs News for your coverage of this important event. It was a powerful reminder of the unique, cross cultural connection points Alice Springs has to offer those who are willing to engage positively with the different groups that make up the Alice Springs community.
    It’s sad to see some of the comments on here clearly trying to discredit the event, which was clearly in solidarity with US protests happening as a result of the death of George Floyd.
    The George Floyd story clearly resonate with so many in Central Australia given the history of police violence towards first nations people in Australia.
    You have to be wilfully ignorant not to see the parallels between the police violence in the US and the treatment of Indigenous people at the hands of police and policy makers here in Australia.
    I briefly attended the event with my wife and daughter and thought Kira’s speech was incredible.
    Her bravery is in direct contrast to the cowardice of those who snipe at her from the anonymity of their online pseudonyms.
    As mentioned in this article, Kira’s speech actually touched on the burden of standing up, mentioning the online vitriol heaped on Aboriginal kids, leaders and people on forums such as the Alice Springs Community Forum Facebook page.
    There’s some prime examples of this negativity in the comments section below. I’ll be raising my daughter in Central Australia to admire the resilience, courage and determination of people like Kira Voller, and to recognise how cowardly it is to snipe from the anonymous cover of a pseudonym at people fighting for a better world for their children.
    @ Surprised! What you seem to be missing in your interpretation of the facts is that Indigenous Australians only make up around 2% of Australia’s total population, so making up 20% of the deaths in custody is staggering.
    The disproportionate incarceration rate equates to Indigenous Australians being around 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous Australians.
    Also, the tired knee-jerk reaction to BLM in retorting that “all lives matter” completely misses the point. When people say “black lives matter” they are not saying only black lives matter or black lives matter more than other lives.
    BLM is more about saying black lives matter too. Originating in the States, BLM is a pushback against those who have devalued black lives to the point that black people are at danger while jogging, or birdwatching, or sitting in their parked cars, or homes, or in mundane encounters with law enforcement that pose no threat to white people.
    If you can’t see the parallels to what happens here in Australia, again, you are wilfully ignorant.
    As pointed out in the comments below, the fact that there are Indigenous children as young as 10 being locked up, tear-gassed and tormented in the NT is another shameful failure in the long list of shameful failures in Australia’s relationship with Indigenous people.

  23. @ Josh Davis: Josh, I am unsure what you mean specifically about my misinterpreting the facts “@ Surprised! What you seem to be missing in your interpretation of the facts is that Indigenous Australians only make up around 2% of Australia’s total population, so making up 20% of the deaths in custody is staggering” as I only mentioned watching Oranges and Sunshine and that “All lives matter”.
    In response to your “when people say ‘black lives matter’ they are not saying only black lives matter or black lives matter more than other lives.”
    So if I put and advertisement in the paper that says “Positions Vacant … White People are strongly encouraged to apply” or White Australian Identified Position (under Section 25 of the Anti-Discrimination Act). Tell me honestly that you don’t believe that these would not draw some racist feedback? Point being, it’s very similar to differentiating between black lives to white lives to all lives.
    As and FYI, both of these phrases are frequently used to encourage Aboriginal people to the positions. (I substituted the words Aboriginal with White.)
    But as you mentioned it, the 2% population making 20% of the deaths in custody, then we should look at that too. For a start, the stats suggest that there is a disproportionate number of Aboriginals in custody. Then that also suggests that they break the law more often, perhaps disproportionately. Surely that needs to be addressed!
    Then there is what causes the deaths? My understanding is that a lot of these people have or had severe health issues prior to going into custody.
    That being said, there may also be ill and immediate effects from withdrawal from various substances. So whilst they are in custody, perhaps that is not the best place for them, especially if they need medical (immediate or longer term) care.
    To my mind, if the police arrest someone for a crime and take them to the watch house or gaol as the case may be. It’s not the police who should have to make the determination as to the person’s medical condition (unless its obvious) or suitability to be transported to the watch house or gaol.
    We have Congress who get a heap of money ($30m) to help, but what do they do with regards to frontline work? There are a myriad of funded Aboriginal organisations, what do they do in terms of measurable resolutions? Have they really improved the lives of Aboriginal people?
    Furthermore, to blame the police is ridiculous and very unfair.
    I am sure there are members who need some guidance or perhaps even removal and we have to trust the system to see that it happens.
    To blame the police in general because of a few bad eggs, is akin to blaming all Aboriginals for the crimes of a few.
    Isn’t this how we got here in the first place?
    In terms of other numbers, as I actually mentioned in my comment, make the effort to watch Oranges and Sunshine and see some “other” statistics or at least get some perspective of the unfairness of life.
    In my opinion, Aboriginal organisations receive a disproportionate amount of money and resources (in comparison to non-Aboriginal organisations), to assist their people.
    If they fail to administer effective, efficient and or appropriate care, compassion and educational necessities to make their lives better, then they have failed their people.
    Probably, one thing that really gets to me, is that a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon about something that happened in the US and are drawing parallels (rightly or wrongly) to what’s going on in Australia.
    BUT nobody really gives a shit about the thousands of people dying EVERY DAY around the world from starvation and other diseases or the hundreds of homeless and destitute people in Australia.
    They haven’t broken the laws and haven’t ended up in gaol. They are mostly innocent.

  24. @ Josh Davis. Good point Josh Davis, as you say, “Indigenous Australians only make up around 2% of Australia’s total population, so making up 20% of the deaths in custody is staggering.” This is terrible. However it is statistically incorrect to compare the 20% deaths in Custody to the 2% of Australia’s population, because the whole population of Australia is not in custody. (I made this mistake as well approximately two weeks ago. Thank you for correcting me M.)
    Sadly indigenous Australians make up approximately 28% of the persons in custody!! To be statistically correct you must compare the indigenous 28 % of the prison population to 20% of deaths in prison of indigenous people. This means if you are indigenous person in prison you are LESS likely to die than non-indigenous person.
    This is why the National Deaths in Custody Program report as initiated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, compare rates per 100 of people in custody. Please read the report for unbiased information.

  25. Apologies to Ralph Folds. I misread the very beginning if the post, and mistook the word can for can’t. Happy to retract that.

  26. @ Wayne: I was referring to the 20% statistic mentioned in the comments section earlier which was written off as a small number, and the poster had asked the question, what am I missing?
    You are right it is terrible, and I can understand your thoughts on the statistics.
    However, one of the key findings of the Royal Commission was that Aboriginal people are more likely to die in custody because they are arrested and jailed at disproportionate rates.
    Hearing the stories behind many of these deaths, it paints a disgusting pictures of police neglect, and a failure to stop preventable Indigenous deaths. The stories behind these deaths are harrowing.
    @ Surprised! Just to clarify, Congress is not going to fix 288 years of trauma in one funding cycle. And the black deaths in custody which have people protesting are not caused by diabetes / renal failure if this is what you’re getting at?
    But, yes, apologies for the confusion with my initial reply, it looks like I mixed up my statistics – response to the wrong anonymous pseudonym. @ Surprised1 and @ Confused? are two different people?
    It’s hard to keep track of these pseudonyms.
    You do seem quick to give the police a second chance, and not want to judge them as a whole based on the actions of the worst “bad eggs”. But you’re not so quick to apply that same forgiving logic to Indigenous Australians. Funny that.
    RE: Indigenous Identified Positions: Honestly, if there are people living in Alice Springs who can’t understand white privilege in 2020, I’m probably not going to be able to help you much. Maybe try googling it, or getting someone you know to explain it to you?
    You seem to like Netflix. There’s a whole bunch of shows on Netflix that can explain these issue – you can literally type ‘white privilege’ or ‘black lives matter’ into the Netflix search bar and it will give you hours of videos that will help you understand what these terms mean and their historical context.
    I will watch Oranges and Sunshine, I’m a big Emily Watson fan.
    As great as Netflix is, if you really want to actively engage in the solution to these issues, events like Saturday’s protest offer the opportunity to directly engage with Indigenous leaders present and emerging with lived experience of the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people in Australia.
    That’s mainly why I originally posted as I was so moved by Kirra’s speech and her bravery in explaining publicly her fears for her own children.
    I have my own fears, as we all do, but as a non-Indigenous person living in Alice Springs I don’t have to worry about the same things Indigenous people worry about. I don’t have to worry about the same things Kirra worries about. This is white privilege.
    In Alice Springs there are unique opportunities to hear these stories first hand. It’s much more productive than sharing Netflix recommendations.
    We live in a town that suffers the consequence of generations of prescriptive government interventions being inflicted on Indigenous Australians. How much evidence do you need that this approach doesn’t work?
    Also, @surprised! I’m not sure how you’ve made the jump from the protests to “nobody cares about people dying from starvation”? I’ve heard someone trying to explain the hypocrisy of this style of argument by likening it to attending a cancer benefit and screaming at the fundraisers for not caring about AIDS funding. This clearly would not happen, but is a popular “all lives matter” approach to discrediting BLM.
    Anyway, I’m sure you mean well. We’d probably get on if we met in person.
    We definitely don’t share the same opinions, but we do live in the same town.
    You’ve got to love Alice Springs, the diversity of people, opinions, and approaches to the same issues. We could probably both agree on at least one thing: It’s never dull here.

  27. @GC. High rates of Aboriginal imprisonment are always explained in terms of poor education, poverty,inadequate housing, police violence etc.
    There is rarely a mention of fundamental cultural differences playing a role even though they obviously do.
    You say that if the system cannot accommodate those cultural differences, that is a form of violence.
    But how you would address cultural differences in laws and their administration?
    Until the past couple of decades this issue was dealt with by the absence of remote policing.
    Communities had little police presence, eg one 2 man station at Papunya policed a large part of central Australia.
    In the absence of policing, Aboriginal Law continued and communities worked their own problems out, not as whitefellas would, but to the satisfaction of most residents.
    Few went to jail.
    The Intervention saw police stations built in many communities and traditional punishment was nearly policed out of existence.
    Not that payback has diminished but now it is administered by knives wielded by drunks and is sometimes lethal.
    Imprisonment rates have soared to some of the highest in the world.
    But how do you address this?
    The concept of different laws has been firmly rejected.
    Traditional punishment is not coming back.
    Police have no legal authority to make exceptions even where they are dealing with an Aboriginal offender who is following his own moral precepts.
    For the Aboriginal offender being arrested for driving to his grandfather’s funeral when his car is defected, unregistered and his driver’s licence suspended seems very unjust.

  28. Whatever your opinion on this complex matter, I suggest you Google “ABC Numbulwar taser” and spend 12 minutes looking at the video of a man being arrested.

  29. @ 1 Frank Baarda: Frank, I watched the video. Yep it was poorly managed and clearly the senior of the police was grossly unfit causing him to loose his cool. I don’t understand why the police have to pass a fitness test at the beginning of their career but are allowed to get obese during their career.
    Furthermore he (police) should be disciplined for saying “I’ll thump you” etc.
    The situation should never have been allowed to go on that long and had they put the guy in a figure of four, it would have not escalated.
    On the flip side, they gave the offender more than ample opportunity to comply and he did not, so that was his undoing.
    One thing I have never liked is officials all yelling at the same time. Whilst it is one of their tactics, it only adds to the confusion.
    Perhaps they should have had a NAAJA person or such there to explain what was going to happen because the Spiel was a little confusing to me.
    But, had the guy complied none of this would have happened.

  30. NT police do a fantastic job. They put up with so much.
    They arrest people who bite the back of their lips which produce lots of blood. The police open the back of the van and a mouthful of blood is spat over their face. The same getting pissed on while doing their duties.
    Tell me why they should put up with this.
    People are quite happy to complain about police and what they do. Take alcohol away, remove cars from the road that aren’t registered, no free housing.
    If we all get the same there can’t be any complaints.
    All lives matter and all lives deserve the same as each other. No more giving extras because of race.
    Keep up the great work, NT Police.

  31. @ Josh Davis: On your last post you said “I can understand your thoughts on the statistics,” so that implies you agree with me that an Indigenous persons in prison is LESS likely to die than a non-indigenous person.
    The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody did not have the benefit of the National Deaths in Custody Program reports.
    That came after, as it was initiated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody itself.
    Yes I agree with you, Indigenous persons are arrested and jailed at disproportionate rates. This is one of the real issues.
    I believe that Australia has economically incentivised crime. The middle class Australians are struggling financially and the lowest income class is disillusioned.
    If you are in the lowest income group and have alcohol and or substance addictions petty crime is way of supporting those addictions and jail is a poor man’s “rehab clinic”.
    Josh, you talk about harrowing stories painting a disgusting picture of police neglect.
    In 2017-2018 as per the facts in the NDICP report starting on page 11, there were three deaths of indigenous persons in police custody for all of Australia and none in the Northern Territory.
    One of the deaths was recorded as natural.
    Compare this to the amount of harrowing stories and terrible violet injuries that present at the Alice Springs hospital every day and the death from drink driving and payback. The two “accidental” Indigenous deaths in police custody for the whole of Australia, pale into a very small percentage of indigenous harm.
    @ Ralph Folds: I agree with you culture is an issue. The demand share culture worked when, people were fully engaged in a traditional hunter gather lifestyle but completely fails in present day Indigenous groups that have low employment and high alcohol and substance addictions.
    There is so much misinformation about the real issues. The mainstream media’s practice of focusing on social division to create a sensational emotional stories that increase viewer / reader numbers, is also part of the problem.
    If all black lives matter, people need to respectfully talk about the real issues and then find a better way.

  32. @Ralph Folds. It is unjust! We address it by abolishing the police and believing a different world is absolutely possible and absolutely essential. We do it collaboratively.


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