The Indigenous Social Justice Association says a pattern has emerged in successive First Nations coronial inquests, whereby authorities are excused of any wrongdoings, despite the court’s supposedly neutral stance, writes Paul Gregoire.
Black deaths in custody
Social justice workers and local First Nations community members spoke out about the dire need for action in the Yamatji region, at a media conference in Geraldton, Western Australia, on October 2.
Relatives and supporters of David Dungay Jnr took over the town of Kempsey, in north coast New South Wales, on August 3 to speak out against a corrective services system that claimed the life of the 26-year-old Dunghutti man.
The coronial inquest into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, due to start on August 26, will be the first of its kind to consider the role systemic racism plays in an Aboriginal person’s death in custody.
"The family just want the truth to come out," Leetona Dungay told supporters and the media outside the New Coroners Court on March 4. Dungay is the mother of Aboriginal man David Dungay Jnr, who died in Long Bay Jail as a result of assault by prison guards in 2015.
Members of the Dungay family and supporters had gathered at the entrance to the court to express solidarity with Leetona in her quest for justice from the NSW legal system at the coroner's inquiry beginning that day.
On February 14, the family and supporters of TJ Hickey will meet at the park they have named after the young Kamilaroi man, 15 years after he was murdered by the NSW police.
Young Aboriginal man David Dungay jnr died on December 29, 2015 after pleading for his life in the mental health wing of Sydney’s Long Bay jail.
The 26-year-old Dunghutti man from Kempsey, a known diabetic, suffered a cardiac arrest when he was pinned down by four members of the prison’s Immediate Action Team (IAT) for refusing to stop eating biscuits and injected with two strong sedatives. He was due to be released three weeks later.
Family members and supporters of Eric Whittaker rallied outside NSW Parliament on on July 4, the first anniversary of his murder.
Speakers at the action included Eric's mother, Margaret Hall, Diane Whittaker, Elizabeth Jarrett, Padraic Gibson, Raul Bassi and Ken Canning.
Whittaker was a 35-year-old Kamilaroi man put in Parklea Prison for an alleged breach of bail conditions.
The Walgett father of four was imprisoned for only two days before he was fatally injured in the prison.
More than 600 people rallied in Sydney on May 14 to protest against Black deaths in custody after footage showing a Western Australian senior sergeant deliberately driving over 18-year-old Aboriginal man William Farmer was released. The police officer who assaulted Farmer has been stood down, but the young man sustained serious injuries as a result of the assault.
The Queensland government has reached a $30 million settlement with Palm Island residents in a class action in the Federal Court over the 2004 Palm Island riots that followed the death in police custody of Aboriginal man Cameron Doomadgee. But Doomadgee's family says no amount of money will alleviate the pain of losing him.
The state will also apologise to the community after a landmark racial discrimination case in which the Federal Court found police were racist in their response to riots that followed Doomagee's death.