Since 1991, there have been 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody, as reported by The Guardian Australia. Despite over 400 people losing their lives, no police officers have been convicted over these deaths.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota sparked outrage here in Australia. This event reignited an important conversation across the globe but it’s time to look at our own actions in Australia, at how Indigenous people are treated by our law enforcement and how we can do better by the First Nations people.
“Blackfellas are always speaking about police brutality — why aren’t people listening? We’ve long been theorising on it and protesting it,” Dr Chelsea Bond, a Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman at the University of Queensland, told the ABC.
“What is it about people’s failure to see and hear and how is this connected to the idea of terra nullius — that we’re not even here? There is a relationship.”
Becoming an anti-racist ally doesn’t happen overnight. You must put in the time and effort to educate yourself about the issues and the ways you have — inadvertently or not — been contributing to white supremacy. This responsibility doesn’t lay at the feet of your Indigenous community either, it is up to us to self-educate ourselves through literature and documentaries.
Another way to show your support is through donations — either by donating your time or money — to continue working towards becoming an informed ally. Reposting a black square on your Instagram grid might be a good place to start but in the long run, it isn’t enough.
You must put your money where your mouth is. Below, we’ve listed Indigenous organisations who would benefit from your financial support, as well as the families of those who have died in custody.
ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) is a non-government, not-for-profit and community-based national advocacy organisation dedicated specifically to the rights — and overcoming the disadvantage — of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
ANTaR’s focus is on changing the attitudes and behaviours of non-Indigenous Australians so that the rights and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are respected and affirmed across all sections of society.
ANTaR’s work also focuses on lobbying the government on constitutional recognition, closing the gap and native title amongst other things.
You make a donation via the ANTaR website.
Change the Record works to end the incarceration of, and family violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is Australia’s only national Aboriginal led coalition of Aboriginal peak bodies and non-Indigenous allies.
According to Change the Record, there has been an 88% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people put in prison over the last 10 years. To help this organisation change the record, you can make a donation via the Change the Record website.
A generous anonymous donor has offered to match every donation made to Change the Record dollar for dollar up to $50,000. So, it’s the perfect time to show your support and increase the money raised.
There have been thirty years of reports, inquiries and inquests with recommendations to end black deaths in custody….
The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that supports the healing of Stolen Generations survivors, families and communities. This organisation partners with communities to address ongoing trauma faced by those who experience the forced removal of children.
Among many important endeavours, the Healing Foundation works on generating new research and resources to establish an evidence base for healing and best-practice strategies and build support for more effective policy and frameworks.
To financially support this much-needed work, head to the Healing Foundation website.
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Insightful words from a participant from the national workshop on collective healing for Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants, 2015. Participants shared collective knowledge and experience from organisations around Australia that received funding for projects under the second or third rounds of the Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations initiative. Read more via our resources tab on The Healing Foundation website.
The Human Rights Law Centre is an independent, not-for-profit, non-government organisation that employs policy solutions, legal action and advocacy to support people and communities who experience inequality and injustice.
Working alongside law firms, academics and experts, the Human Rights Law Centre partners with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote their rights. You can support the valuable work undertaken by the HRLC by donating via their website. The HRLC is a registered charity and all donations are tax-deductible.
The National Justice Project is a not-for-profit legal service that represents and give a voice to the vulnerable who would otherwise be unable to find legal representation. Within this organisation sits another project called the Aboriginal Health Justice Project.
This is a targeted health-law service for First Nations peoples and communities who have experienced discrimination in healthcare or medical negligence. To further the work done in this area, consider donating to the National Justice Project via its website.
The North Australian Aboriginal Justice (NAAJA) provides legal advice and representation for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory. With over 160 staff members across the NT, NAAJA works in criminal and civil law as well as providing “law and justice-related that aim to ensure that Aboriginal people have real access to justice.”
Help make a difference to the work undertaken by the NAAJA by making a donation. The details can be found online on the NAAJA website.
Sisters Inside is an independent community organisation that was established in 1992. Based in Queensland, the organisation advocates for the collective human rights of women and girls in prison as well as their families.
Sisters Inside also advocates on behalf of women within governments and the legal system in order to try and achieve fairer outcomes for criminalised women, girls and their children. You can assist this work by making a donation online at the Sisters Inside website.
Common Ground aims to help Australians see the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures by providing access to engaging and authentic content that help bridge gaps in knowledge.
According to Common Ground, 85% of Australians believe it’s important to know about histories of our First Persons, but only 42% believe they have a high level of knowledge of that history.
To educate Australians, this organisation creates educational content that shares the knowledge and stories of Indigenous Australian people. To learn more about the work being undertaken, and to make a financial donation, head to the Common Ground website.
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We have been closely watching the scenes in America this last week, and have been moved by the masses of people across the world enraged by the murder of George Floyd. It is important to remember that similar injustice has happened across this nation and continues to happen year on year. If you don't know about the racism First Nations people face across this country each day please take time to better understand this, through educating yourself and becoming familiar with the history of Aboriginal deaths in custody. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991, there have been 432 First Nations deaths in custody. The Guardian Australia's 'deaths inside' research project has combined all data publicly available to provide a comprehensive understanding of the facts available and showcase trends over time. The Guardian have found that the extent of police brutality towards First Nations people is increasing year on year. We've linked the Guardian resource to this post in our bio so you can check it out for yourself. If you are enraged and you need guidance around what you can do about this, swipe through this short graphic for a list of ways you can contribute to dismantling structural racism through educating yourself, listening deeply, being actively anti-racist, making space for First Nations voices, supporting First Nations grassroots organisations, showing up in protest and working to dismantle systems. #blacklivesmatter #aboriginallivesmatter #deathsinside #deathsincustory #commonground
David Dungay died in December 2015 in similar circumstances to George Floyd. The 26-year-old was detained in Long Bay Gaol in Sydney and when he refused to stop eating biscuits, video footage caught six officers storm Dungay’s cell and descend on him.
In the footage, Dungay is heard telling the officers that he can’t breathe (he repeated “I can’t breathe” 12 times) but the officers continued to restrain him and press on his neck. Eventually, Dungay stopped breathing.
All of the officers involved were acquitted of any wrongdoing, despite the video evidence. Dungay’s mother, Leetona Dungay, has set up a GoFundMe page in order to fund an inquest into her son’s death
“I need help to continue my fight for David’s justice,” Dungay wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Please donate to help us show the government that David is not just a statistic; that he was loved, and that he did not deserve to die in prison and to help our family recover from the shock of David’s death.”
To help further the conversation around David Dungay’s death, visit the GoFundMe page.
Tanya Day was a proud Yorta Yorta woman who died in custody in Victoria on December 5, 2017. Day was brought into custody for public drunkenness and according to Day’s daughter Apryl, “within minutes of being placed in the cell Mum suffered repeated falls including one fall that inflicted horrific head injuries.
“For the over four hours she spent in the cells; we believe that Victoria Police officers never responded to any of the falls Mum suffered and never
undertook any appropriate cells checks as required according to their own procedures.”
Day was eventually sent to hospital and passed away on December 22, 2017. Since then, Day’s family have been fighting for an independent investigation into her death as well as the decriminalisation of public drunkenness. To help this cause, you can donate to the GoFundMe page.