- by LB
- The Guardian
- Issue #1957
Warning: This article contains the names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died.
On Saturday, the 10th of April, a CPA contingent attended Stop Black Deaths in Custody rally in Sydney. The rally marked thirty years since the handing down of the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Since the report, a further 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody, and many of the Commission’s recommendations have not been implemented by the Australian government.
The rally started at Sydney Town Hall, where the crowd was welcomed to county by Gadigal elder Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor. We heard from many other powerful Indigenous speakers including MC Lizzie Jarret, Aunty Shirley Lomas, and Aunty Leetona Dungay, the mother of David Dungay Jnr. The speakers talked about the corruption and failures of the government and the criminal justice system and the ongoing impact of colonisation on the lives of Indigenous peoples. Many speakers emphasised the need for non-Indigenous people to listen to and support Indigenous peoples and for Indigenous people to reclaim their land, culture and autonomy. Although there was a strong police presence at the rally, fortunately, there was no police brutality or arrests, owing most likely to the size of the crowd and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
The rally then proceeded through the Sydney CBD to Djarbarrgalli (known as The Domain), which has been a sacred place of gathering for Indigenous people for tens of thousands of years. At Djarbarrgalli, we heard more from many of the families who had lost a loved one in custody. Lizzie Jarrett delivered to the crowd a statement from the family of Nathan Reynolds, an Anaiwan and Dunghutti man who died in prison of an asthma attack. The statement spoke of the systemic failures of the prison system to provide adequate medical treatment to Nathan and the disregard and racist attitudes of corrections nurses and officers who were meant to save his life. Paul Silva spoke of the ongoing struggle for justice for his uncle David Dungay Jnr, and the failure of the Department of Public Prosecution in taking legal action against the corrections officers involved in his death.
Further actions for Indigenous justice will be held in the coming days and weeks to respond to the report of the NSW Parliament Standing Committee on Indigenous Deaths in Custody. The CPA will continue to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities in their fight for justice.