Sunday 2 October 2011
Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team joined together to launch a campaign to get Government action to address on-going Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.
The campaign was launched last Wednesday evening at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on the anniversary of the death in custody of a 16 year old Aboriginal youth, John Pat, in 1983.
John Pat was punched and kicked by off-duty police officers when he tried to help another Aboriginal man who was involved in a fight with the police officers outside a hotel in Roeburn, Western Australia.
Pat died as a result of his injuries. Charges were laid against the police involved, but none was convicted.
John Pat’s death was one of 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which delivered its final report to the Federal Government twenty years ago this April.
The event was chaired by the Director of Brisbane Murri Watch, Mr Ken Georgetown, and prominent elders, Aunty Alex Gater and Aunty Jean Phillips, led prayers during the launch.
Candles were lit to remember John Pat and all the other Indigenous people who have died in paddy wagons, watch houses and jails throughout Australia.
The Coordinator of the Murri Ministry Team, Ms Ravina Waldren, said she had a heavy heart as she remembered the many Aboriginal people who have died in custody over the years.
“I feel deep pain knowing that my people keep dying in custody,” Ms Waldren said.
The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Governments must take action to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission if Aboriginal deaths in custody are to stop.
“The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, but most of them have not been implemented,” Mr Arndt said.
“Since the Royal Commission handed down its report, there have been almost four hundred more black deaths in custody,” he said.
“The fact that the rate of Indigenous imprisonment continues to rise is a major contributing factor,” he said.
The campaign is supported by many Indigenous and community organisations.
Its objectives include:
A full audit of the implemantation of the Royal Commision’s recommendations and all deaths in custody in the last twenty years
- Inclusion of justice as one of the key indicators which are targeted for improvement by the Council of Australian Governments;
- The establishment of a fully funded national Deaths in Custody Watch Committee;
- The establishment of a Royal Commission into the death in custody of Mulrunje on Palm Island in 2004 and all subsequent actions by the Queensland Government, police and other authorities involved in dealing with the case.
The campaign organisers are arranging a number of other events this year including a prayer vigil on 7 November, the anniversary of the death of young Brisbane Aboriginal man, Daniel Yock, and a rally and march on 19 November, the anniversary of the death of Mulrunje on Palm Island.
“It is high time that things changed for the better and we will keep going with our campaign to ensure that Governments listen and take action,” Ms Waldren said.
An initial information sheet has been produced and will be available on the Commission’s blog at http://cjpcbrisbane.wordpress.com/ Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership will also distribute it to congregations and parishes in all member churches throughout the State.
For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.