An online crowdfunding campaign set up to help Aboriginal women in Western Australia avoid jail for unpaid fines has raised $230,000 in its first four days and already settled the debts of 30 imprisoned women, with another 50 expected to be free in coming weeks.
Members of the family of Ms Dhu, the 22-year-old Yamatji woman who died in custody at the South Hedland watch house in 2014, have received an apology and $1.1 million from the Western Australian government.
The WA Attorney-General said the payment does not prevent the family from pursuing further legal action against the government over Ms Dhu's death in custody.
The family of Ms Dhu, who died in police custody in August 2014, is to launch legal action against the state of Western Australia, the police and the Country Health Service. They plan to lodge a claim of misconduct leading to death and a complaint of racial discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Ms Dhu’s uncle Shaun Harris said the claims were about accountability and instigating change. “We need to enforce change, custodial change and reform, not just in Western Australia but Australia wide. Without accountability there will be no justice for my niece.”
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.
Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA and Refugee Rights Action Network WA released this joint statement on August 10.
* * *
Every afternoon at 4pm on Nauru, asylum seeking adults and children stage a peaceful protest at the gate of the OPC3 family camp, which they have done since March 20 (Palm Sunday). Four weeks into their protest, refugees in the RPC3 camp opposite joined them.
On August 4 the family of Ms Dhu and their supporters marked the second anniversary of her death in police custody in South Headland with a rally outside Perth's Central Law Courts.
Ms Dhu's family is calling for an independent investigation into her death, as well as demanding the release of CCTV footage that shows her last hours alive in custody.
Ms Dhu, who was 22 years old at the time, had been detained for the non-payment of fines amounting to $3622, but died within two days of being taken into custody.
The killing of two African American men in Minnesota and Louisiana in early July created an uproar across the US and around the world. In Australia there was lots of social media commentary and letters to the press about US racism.
The anniversary of the death in custody of 22-year-old Aboriginal woman, known as Julieka Dhu, was marked around Australia on August 4.
Dhu died while in police custody in Western Australia’s Pilbara region for non-payment of fines that totalled about $1000.