Brisbane rally demands action on Black deaths in custody

November 20, 2011
Photo: Jim McIlroy.

"Still no justice! Stop Black deaths in custody!" were the themes of a rally held at Emma Miller Place on November 19. The protest marked 20 years since the release of the report of the Royal Commission into Black deaths in custody in 1991.

Up to 150 people attended the rally and marched through city streets to Musgrave Park in West End to demand a new Royal Commission into the Aboriginal deaths since 1991.

Murri activist and rally chair Sam Watson announced that a new Deaths in Custody Watch Committee would be formed in Brisbane to monitor treatment of Aboriginal prisoners.

He said: "We serve notice on police that Aboriginal rights will be defended. We demand justice now.

Michael Anderson, a co-founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972, was a special guest speaker at the rally. He spoke about the history of the struggle for Black rights and outlined a project he is pursuing to challenge the legal basis of colonial dispossession of Aboriginal land.

He said Aboriginal people "have sovereignty, always have had, and always will."

Aboriginal researcher Megan Williams noted the under-reporting of Aboriginal deaths in custody figures in official government statistics. “South-East Queensland has the highest rate of incarceration of Aboriginal prisoners in Australia,” she said. “At least 30% of inmates in southeast Queensland prisons are Aboriginal. They are 12 times more likely to be in prison that non-Aboriginals.”

Other speakers condemned the failure to achieve justice over the murder of Mulrunji Doomadgee, who died in police custody on Palm Island seven years ago and the deaths of other Black prisoners over the past 20 years.

They expressed solidarity with the campaign to force the legal system to convict and jail police and prison officers who kill Aboriginal prisoners.

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