Justice for Eddie Murray

Anna Murray speaking at the Sydney protest. Photo: Peter Boyle.

A rally for justice for Eddie Murray, a 21-year-old Aboriginal man who was killed by "persons unknown" while detained in Wee Waa police station in north-western NSW on June 12, 1981, was held in Sydney on the anniversary of his death.

Anna Murray, Eddie's younger sister recalled answering the door to the police who had come to arrest her brother 34 years ago. At 16, she was the last member of the family to see Eddie alive.

She said that there had never been a protest in Wee Waa over her brother's death and she proposed that one be held there this time next year.

"This was not a death in custody but a murder in custody", Aboriginal activist and poet Ken Canning told the protest.

"The Royal Commission found that Eddie Murray died at the hand or hands of persons unknown. But he was in a police station! Who else had access to him? Were the Wee Waa police in the habit of giving out their keys to the Ku Klux Klan?"

Murray's death in custody along with the death of John Pat, another young Aboriginal man in the Roebourne (WA) police station in 1983 strongly shaped a nation-wide campaign against Aboriginal deaths in custody in the 1980s which led to the setting up of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Speakers at the protest noted that not a single police officer or prison officer had been convicted for any of the 99 cases of Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1 January 1980 and 31 May 1989 that were investigated by the Royal Commission.

Further, most of the Royal Commission’s recommendations were not implemented and one of the few that were implemented, the NSW Custody Notification Service (CNS) is set to be de-funded from July 1, this year.

Since the CNS was implemented in NSW in 2007, there have been no Indigenous deaths in its police cells, watch-houses and during transport procedures. In that time, other states and territories have recorded 11 Indigenous deaths in police custody.

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