The tragedy of death in custody always evokes strong sentiments of anger, despair, disbelief and hunger for justice, and it was no different today at the rally held in Brisbane, hosted by the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy to honour loved ones, who in the course of their lives were failed by the justice system.
The hundreds of people that gathered in Roma Street were united in the call for justice, and for the end of deaths in custody They listened to speaker after speaker recounting stories of their lived experience of losing family members at the hands of the police for trivial charges like unpaid fines or petty crimes.
Aboriginal people from across the country took to the stage to inform and disclose their grief. Shaun Harris, a Yamatji man from the Mid-west of Western Australia, and the organiser of the national day of protest for Miss Dhu, who died in custody in Port Hedland in May this year, after being detained by the police, also informed the people that as the rally took place a funeral of another death in custody was being held in Perth.
Lex Wotton, from Palm Island, reminded people of the events of almost a decade ago, when Mulrunji Doomadgee was killed in the Palm Island watch house while justice has never been served.
The mainstream discourse often speaks of Aboriginal people being over represented in the prison population. Is there a right measure of representation for any race or group in prison? Or perhaps it is time to consider that the prison system is obsolete, and alternative models need to be considered if we are to build a just society?
Robbie Thorpe, from the Gunnai Nation, and a veteran of many years of activism to redress Aboriginal injustices, convincingly directs responsibility for the status quo with imprisonment and death in a failed system forced upon the people by a colonising power.
“Australia is a crime scene, and we are not going to get justice from criminals. It will remain that way until we have a treaty and a proper justice system”, said Robbie.
Robbie doesn’t believe that a treaty will be happening in the near future, but says “Aboriginal people aren’t going anywhere” and will continue to fight for their rights and determination.
Following the speakers, the participants braved the hot conditions and marched to Musgrave Park, a storical site for Aboriginal activism and struggle. The all march was flanked by a heavy police force presence, the constant hovering of police helicopter, but also the support of legal observers and street medics, the latter kept busy by attending to the needs of people who found he conditions trying.
The protest against the G20 continues at Musgrave Park, where the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy is based, and with another march Saturday morning, again starting from Roma Street, demanding decolonisation before profit.
The march will run parallel with the Peoples’ March.