"Thirty Years But Still No Justice!" was the theme of an Aboriginal deaths in custody forum held in Redfern on July 27. Speakers addressed issues of deaths in custody, victims of police brutality and other social justice concerns.
The forum was also the Sydney launch of the National Deaths in Custody Coalition (NDCC), established in February this year to organise for a national day of action on Saturday, September 28 to mark 30 years since the death at police hands of WA Aboriginal youth John Pat in 1983. The meeting was sponsored by the Indigenous Social Justice Association.
The September 28 events will feature the demands: stop Aboriginal deaths in custody and end the racist persecution of Aboriginal people; build communities, not prisons — end privatisation of custodial services; hold the police and other custodial authorities to public and independent accountability; end the ongoing harassment of death in custody families; and demand government funding for national meetings of death in custody families to allow for a national solution.
Debbie Kilroy, from the Brisbane-based organisation Sisters Inside, which works for Aboriginal women in prison, told the forum: "Prison kills the spirit of Aboriginal women. In the last 10 years, there has been a 68% increase in Aboriginal women in jail, much higher than for the white population.
"We need to expose violations in prison. The jail system causes the high rate of deaths of women and men in custody."
Other speakers included representatives of the families of deaths in custody victims TJ Hickey, who died as a result of police action in Redfern; Eddie Murray, who was killed in regional NSW; and the Bowraville children, who were murdered in that town 22 years ago.
Publicity for the Sydney meeting noted: "Our forum will be promoting the NDCC as a tool to have a national response to every death in custody. At the same time we are aiming to rekindle the spirit of the initial campaign to stop all deaths in custody and police brutality."