Crossbench backs Lidia Thorpe on Black deaths royal commission recommendations

March 25, 2024
Stop Black deaths in custody
The Invasion Day march in Gadigal/Sydney demands an end to Black deaths in custody. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

In the wake of the failed Voice to Parliament referendum, Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung independent Senator Lidia Thorpe has received crossbench backing for her March 21 call for Labor to implement the royal commission into Black deaths in custody’s recommendations.

Her open letter to Labor demanded an end to the removal of First Nations children and said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Human Rights Commission should be funded to ensure the recommendations are acted on.

Thorpe is being supported by Andrew Wilkie, David Pocock, Jacquie Lambie, Tammy Tyrell, Kylea Tink, Zali Steggall, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel, Helen Haines, Sophie Scamps and Allegra Spender.

Thorpe said that, decades after the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report, “our people continue to die and our children continue to be taken in record numbers”.

She said racism is the blame for children dying by suicide in prison, systemic brutality by the police and new babies being removed from their mothers moments after birth.

The latest Closing the Gap report, released in January, showed the rates of First Nations suicide, incarceration and children in out-of-home care are worsening.

Death in custody rates are at their highest point in more than a decade, with at least 558 First Nations people killed in custody since the royal commission, including a shocking four deaths already this year.

Labor voted down Thorpe’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Bill 2022 last December. It aimed to uphold First Nations rights by ensuring a plan to implement the UNDRIP.

Wilkie said it is “unconscionable” that, 27 years after the Bringing Them Home Report and 33 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, “the majority of recommendations have not been implemented”.

Thorpe said that “oversight of progress on these critical reforms is a necessary step towards positive change for First Peoples on a larger scale”.

“We need justice and leadership from the Labor government,” she said.

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