Rallies against systemic violence against Aboriginal people

Issue 
Sydney protest. Photo: Lynda-June Coe

A defiant action was organised on October 22 to protest the recent murder in custody of Wayne “Fella” Morrison.

Morrison died at Royal Adelaide Hospital on September 26, three days after a beating by prison guards at Adelaide’s Yatala Labour Prison left him brain dead.

Sydney's action was part of a national call to action that also protested the death of Miss Dhu, the shooting of Dennis Doolan and abuse and torture of Dylan Voller.

At Adelaide’s action, the family was joined by Shaun Harris, Ms Dhu’s uncle, and Joanne and Kirra Voller, sister and mother respectively of Dylan Voller, the young Aboriginal boy tortured in Don Dale prison. There were also actions in Perth and Brisbane.

The guards allege Morrison attacked five prison guards while he was waiting for a scheduled video-link court appearance.

Morrison’s sister, Latoya Aroha Rule, who organised the national mobilisations, disputes the allegations, saying her brother who was of Pitjantjatjara and Wiradjuri ancestry, “was a non-violent fisherman and artist”.

“This is beyond heartbreaking,” she said on Facebook. “All prison officers involved have been released from the hospital with minor to no injuries, and my brother is brain dead and has no life left.”

The Sydney rally began with a passionate acknowledgement of country from elder and activist Ken Canning.

He read a poem from his book of poetry Burraga Gutya, Yimbama about the bloodshed in prison cells and said: “The Liberal and Labor parties are presiding over genocide. They want to assimilate Aboriginal people because we are standing up against their mining mates who want our land. They want to kill us for our land.”

Morrison's cousin Adam Davids told the crowd: “Wayne was the same age as me, we both have no convictions and we have had no trouble with the police. Wayne was a great fisherman, he would go to the furthest places and he was a great cook.

“We still don't have the answers to why this happened. We are calling for them to release the CCTV footage and to implement a coronial inquiry.”

Bridget Cama, a Wiradjuri and Fijian woman, told the crowd about the rise in Aboriginal incarceration rates and the murder rates of Aboriginal people in custody.

Kaleesha Morris, a Gumbaynggirr woman from the Clarence Valley in northern NSW, read a list of nine demands to the government. The demands included: giving CCTV footage of the “incidents” to all families; formal apologies to all the families; independent investigations of all deaths in custody; Custody Notification Services to be implemented in every state and territory; imprisonment only as a last resort; a review of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; an end to mandatory sentencing; and abolition of imprisonment for outstanding fines.

Isabel Coe, a Wiradjuri Torres Strait Islander woman and representative of the new group Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties, said “They are torturing children in jail cells. It’s the same torture we received in missions by the churches. It’s the same torture we received on reserves. Let’s give the government what they don't want. Let’s unite.”

Laura Lyons from Grandmothers Against Removals called on people to come together for a Human Rights Day protest on December 10.

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