Reclaiming our (aboriginal) deaths in custody watch committee

[Aboriginal News sent by Les Maelzer]


This is a letter from four noteworthy individuals, three of them noteworthy Aboriginal folk however the contents of the letter are supported by many Aboriginal folk, who now meet weekly, and an increasing number of non-Aboriginal supporters who respect their right to leadership. We must not allow for silence to undermine our hopes and for silence to keep us from moving forward. We forgive those who wrong us however we will not accept their wrongs. We forgive them even when they foolishly persecute us, foolishly seek to silence and remove us. We ask them to walk alongside us however they may not lead us nor exclude anyone, not a single person.

We are figthing for the reclaiming of our ABORIGINAL Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, and in this way can you truly move forward towards the elimination of all forms of racism.

The non-Aboriginal folk must trust in us that we are made of mettle that they do not understand and they must finally realise that we alone, ourselves alone, can speak for ourselves and our people and we do not need to hear or be insulted as one Board member and one Committee member said, “Aboriginal people are lazy…” We forgive them. May they understand us. Human Rights are to be supported by everyone, and everyone can be involved however Aboriginal peoples can speak for themselves about Aboriginal issues. We cannot accept a Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA where the leadership is not predominately Aboriginal folk.

We are fully supportive of non-Aboriginal folk to be with us, support us and work with us on our campaign committees and causes. One Board member said that an Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee is ‘inverse racism’. It is not. It can be racist to think in such ways. This was said to the whole General Meeting on February 1, to our Aboriginal community in the gallery. It was said that if we are once again called the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee that many non- Aboriginal folk would leave and others would not join! Well as several non-Aboriginal members later said, “would we want such people with such ignorance with us?”

We do not see Gerry Georgatos, Jane Paterson, Pam Morris, David Suter, Mick Suter, good non-Aboriginal people giving their whole-hearted support suggesting that they will leave. They will not. Gerry and a few others pointed out the lowest point of the February 1 Special General Meeting was not the heated comments, not the delay tactics, not the factual inaccuracies however it was when non-Aboriginal folk got up and spoke about what they’ve ‘done for Aboriginal people’ – this was terrible – as Gerry, and others similarly, said, “You don’t ever speak like that, and you should never think like that – you don’t demean others or make them feel indebted to you, we can never do enough and they should never owe us anything or be made to feel as if such is the case – such comments are inadvertent racism and just plain wrong.

I could not believe the igorance from people who you would think know better however it explained much about them. In the end we need to forgive them.” As Bill says, “All of them need cultural awareness training. All of them need to understand.” We cannot accept a Board that has introduced Confidentiality Contracts, which recriminates against people for freedom of speech and which tries to expel members. They have expelled members and now they wish to expel Gerry, who resigned in November because he could not swallow what he perceived as racism and discrimination and the demeaning of Aboriginal folk, and who has resigned ‘again’ rather than be part of DICWC as he perceives it to be.

They have stacked power in the executive and excluded the two most popular elected members to the Board, Glenn Moore and Dr Bill Hayward because they refuse sign Confidentiality Contracts. What checks to have against a Board, from maybe its own ignorance and mistakes, when they become opaque and unanswerable? The Board did not move to a Special General Meeting when requested by our Aboriginal folk (financial members) and found ways to deceive us and refused to speak with us about our proposals and instead, after two months, orchestrated their own Special General Meeting where our voices were cut down while they spoke at length, and where they refused the inclusion of our Special Resolutions. We are prepared to work with them, they should have long ago understood that they should work with us, however we will not accept being deceived, disregarded, discredited and demeaned.

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee belongs to the Aboriginal voices, the Aboriginal peoples’ pain and suffering, most Aboriginal families understand what it is like to have family incarcerated, and family living in the myriad of problems racism levelled upon us for so long by those who thought we are much less than we are. It is an insult that we are no longer The Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, and it is an insult to people like Bill, Dot, Glenn and Gerry amongst others in suffering so much for so long in trying to remedy the ills. It is wrong for their names to be tarnished.

It is wrong and racism for non-Aboriginal folk to keep on telling us what is best for us, to tell us what are the best ways for us to go about change, to tell us what we must do, to tell us how we must do it. NO. As Gerry says, “We care about all deaths in custody, however if we mend our ways to eliminate Aboriginal deaths in custody, then we will have fixed it for all deaths in custody, for everyone.” As Glenn says, “We have been and are the most downtrodden people in our own country for too long.

Unlike those before us we are and will be for all people.” As Bill says, “I will never sign a confidentiality agreement and especially when it has not been approved by an AGM, and even if an AGM approves it I will not sign it and rather I will be forced to resign.” As Dot, and many Aboriginal folk, often say, “Our people are hurting…” and “The Deaths in Custody Committee was created out of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody for Aboriginal people to speak up for their people.”

Time is being wasted, we must not spend much more time in reclaiming our Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, the people who depend on us need us, now. Please read this Letter and please forward it to everyone. It is an Open Letter, a call for an end to contemporary inadvertent racism and for Aboriginal folk to lead the way and for all to stand united behind us: — Aboriginal Advancement by Aboriginal people is the way forward for oppressed and disenfranchised Aboriginal peoples. Contemporary racism is no longer merely about disliking someone because of the colour of their skin or because of their cultural settings.

Contemporary racism includes standing in the way of people’s right to self-determination, standing in the way of people managing their own affairs, in believing that for instance white folk can manage the affairs of Aboriginal peoples better than they can – this is a ‘Chief Protector’ mentality. We need to eliminate this type of racism firstly at the grassroots for us to have real hope of eliminating racism at the coalfaces and frontiers. There are some social justice groups that do not understand contemporary racism and do not have a grasp on meaningful definitions of equitable social inclusion. One such group is the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA (incorporated). For all their positive contributions over the years those at the wheel stand in the way of Aboriginal folk who believe in Aboriginal Advancement by Aboriginal people.

The Committee was created as a response to the 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1980 and 1989 and subsequently was reinforced as an Aboriginal peoples reference group from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. During the nineties ‘Aboriginal’ was stripped from the group’s title. Though the issue has been raised a few times ‘Aboriginal’ has never been returned. The Aboriginal folk dispossessed of their reference group came and went, and came again and went. We care about all deaths in custody however in the state of WA Aboriginal deaths are more in total numbers than non-Aboriginal deaths and we have three times the national average of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

The DICWC’s Constitution claims as its first aim and objective the elimination of Aboriginal deaths in custody. The acrimony at the DICWC, which we believe should be the ADICWC, has reached very sad heights, however the Aboriginal folk, and wise non- Aboriginal supporters, who believe in self-determination, in Aboriginal ownership and leadership, in a Board, at least predominately, of Aboriginal members working with all people are standing up to those who insist they should be leading – instead of a predominant Aboriginal leadership. Don’t they see their own hypocrisy?

DICWC is mired with a Board that insists on secrecy, that insists on confidentiality agreements, that argues (however misuses) ‘good governance’. Dr Bill Hayward and Glenn Moore have refused to sign the confidentiality agreements and as a result they have been excluded from the Board meetings! This is a Board which recriminates people who criticise. This is a Board that indulges never before seen kangaroo courts. In accordance with the DICWC Constitution we have called for a General Meeting (twice) however our motions and agenda items have not been affirmed by a morally bankrupt DICWC Board bent on justifying its stance.

The Board that has centralised all power unto itself has looked for every possible means to not table our proposals rather than be prosocial and engage with the will of our people, members and community. Instead they subverted our formal calls for a General Meeting with their own General Meeting, and with a refusal to acknowledge our Resolutions and the discussion needed, and orchestrated an event to further delay justice. At the door they attempted to block Aboriginal people, former and founding members of ADICWC from entering. Later they refused to allow a motion from the floor for Aboriginal community and former members to have at least speaking rights. The Meeting was held on February 1 and it was a waste of time and insult to Aboriginal community and members.

Hollow words flowed mixed with the impassioned pleas and pain from the gallery. We, the Aboriginal folk only, supported by honest non-Aboriginal folk, are filing a third General Meeting request so as Aboriginal voices are heard. We ask the media to attend. We ask for a public gallery so our arguments can be heard as we strive to reclaim an Aboriginal reference group, be it only a small entity, and our right to speak for ourselves and lead as Aboriginal people – we need not be led. No culture, Aboriginal or migrant should be led and nor should we only be known through ‘Welcome to Country’ and food, song and dance. As discussion culminates towards the inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in our Commonwealth Constitution please remember that the very least non- Aboriginal folk can do is allow us to reclaim our voice and our full suite of human rights.

Dot Henry
Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Womens Alliance

Dr William Hayward, Australia’s first Aboriginal Chiropractor and excluded DICWC Board Member Glenn Moore, Leader of The Aboriginal Party and excluded DICWC Board Member

Gerry Georgatos, Convener of The Human Rights Alliance and PhD in Australian Deaths in Custody

You can call Dot, Bill, Glenn, Gerry for clarification and to note your support: Dot: 0449172681
Bill: 0407998463
Glenn: 0432479132
Gerry: 0430657309


One thought on “Reclaiming our (aboriginal) deaths in custody watch committee

  1. marc newhouse says:

    Please remove this dribble from your website as it is serves no purpose and is untrue.

    Marc Newhouse
    Chair DICWC
    [Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA]

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