Red power show me you’re not lost
Black power row me to meeting you
Yellow power sing me a wing, tall in flight
Brown power make me sounds, aloud
White power, don’t take me
Aboriginal power give me power
Now, I’ll go – take.
—Lionel Fogarty, ‘Please Don’t Take’
Daniel Yock would have been a murri man in his prime if he had lived. Under the old tree on the corner of Russell and Edmonstone Streets in Musgrave Park Aboriginal poet, Lionel Fogarty, said farewell to his brother Boonie (Daniel Yock) who was killed by police nearby on the corner of Edmonstone and Sussex Streets, South Brisbane on 7 Nov 1993.
He explained his anger and his grief by reading poems he had written over many, many years — Cheryl Buchanan single-handed published his first book of verse. Lionel and his brother had been on a cultural journey together. I remember the silent march through these streets in November 1993, a sad and powerful tribute to a dancer felled at 18 years of age by Qld police, one of many. Thousands marched to the CBD where the police provoked the murris and a fight occurred there. Police brought out the riot squad and the murris gave them a flogging.
But what is that one slaughter
repeated many times
to us who tread domestic grass
and thrill to ‘foreign’ crimes?
We cannot call the Turrbul back
and guilt’s a slippery thing
if all it feeds is speeches
and songs that poets sing …
Police do not understand culture, they are ignorant people made more ignorant by their political masters and legal system.
Lionel and his family have fought for justice for many years but the lawyers and doctors said Daniel’s death was caused by an obscure heart condition when his death was caused by his body being pitched into the concrete pavement by a huge policeman as his mates barracked ‘you love this stuff’ to urge him on. They took Daniel to Herschel Street and his pulse had run out. Lionel explained that he was falsely implicated in a conspiracy trial in the mid-1970s with Dennis Walker and Jerry Garcia. He explained that the cops had spent years pursuing him and yet his brother Boonie was the one the cops finally got there near Musgrave.
A young Murri woman who was only 6 years when Boonie died stood up at the end of Lionel’s speech and gave a deadly rap dedicated to Boonie. I remember the silent march on 17 November 1993 after Daniel Yock was killed by police. It was the most powerful of marches.
When the Kalkadoons stopped running
and charged and charged again
they fell as fell their tribesmen
on earlier hill and plain.
And we who wrote their finish
must turn and write a start
if we would turn from running
and face our thundering heart
We walked to where he was killed by police.
Lew Wyvill, Labor Lawyer and Commissioner of the Criminal Justice Commission under the Goss Labor government would deny this interpretation of events. But then no policeman has ever been held accountable for a single death in custody in Queensland. This is the legal system that gave us police killing of Mulrunji, John Pat, TJ Hickey, Mr Ward, Daniel Yock and death in custody of Lyji Vaggs and Sheldon Currie …
— Kevin Gilbert
The coroner reduced the death in custody(/care) of Sheldon Currie under the care of the prison privateer SERCO as banal and unexceptional:
“Mr Barnes made no negative findings against those entrusted with Mr Currie’s care, but recommended prison health services must work to contain the “high incidence” of hepatitis.” The Australian
The laws that govern the coroner never bother to look at what caused Sheldon’s problems with drugs or why Daniel Yock was killed. Both boys of 18 years when they died.
“The adequacy and appropriateness of health checks and medical treatment received by the deceased while in custody at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre from 12 January 2010 to 16 February 2010 and after being transferred to the Princess Alexandra Hospital from 16 February 2010 until his death on 20 February 2010.” — Coronial Inquests
A few weeks later
Sister Nicole outside parliament said
‘This poor young fella’s dead
Every single death always
Gets swept under the carpet
What do we have to do to stop this?
Because that is a life
What value do you place on our lives?’
Some things are not meant to be
So please please do not take my land
Always was, always will be
And do not take my whole life too
Like Hurley did Mulrunji
Like a river flows so surely to the sea
—Ian Curr, Two Train Singers
Sheldon Currie should never have been in Arthur Gorrie under the care of SERCO.
Firms profit from deaths in custody.
Lionel explained at the site of his brother’s death that all else is subservient to deaths in custody. We cannot have Land Rights without getting justice for all the deaths in custody. He called for the parliament to weed out the killer cops, not CJC commissioners like Wyville, obsessed with the minutiae of criminal law.
Write of Life
The pious said
Forget the past
the past is dead
But all that I can see
In front of m
Is a cell door
a concrete floor
—Jack Davis, ‘John Pat’
Yet another death-in-custody has occurred in another SERCO prison, this time at Borallon – a prison recently given an award by the Premier Anna Bligh.
Sam Watson, Murri Community worker, has written a letter to THE HON ANNA BLIGH MLA, PREMIER OF QUEENSLAND. The letter was hand delivered at the executive building last week after a respectful ceremony by members of the family, community and friends gathered there. Sam Watson wrote on behalf of the community:
“Last Wednesday the 26th of October (2011) at 9pm a young Aboriginal man died in the Borallon Correctional Centre. The Prison administrators have said on the public record that there were no suspicious circumstances. The young man was from Mt. Isa and he was only twenty five years of age.
The Brisbane Indigenous community were contacted by the senior leaders of the Indigenous Prison population at Borallon and a number of senior community leaders and workers have visited the other Aboriginal men at Borallon, to assist them to deal with this very tragic incident.
Our Community has conveyed our deepest sympathy and support to the family of the deceased man and we stand ready to give them whatever assistance they need in coming days.”
Let no one say the past is dead.
The past is all about us and within.
—Oodgero Noonuccal, ‘The Past’, in My People
Sam Watson’s letter to the Premier goes on
“Because of this information that our leaders and workers have received about this incident, we now place these demands before you:
- The Family of the deceased man be transported to Brisbane to receive the body of their loved one and take it back to their own community.
- That the Government and the administrators of the prison provide an immediate ex gratia payment to the family to assist them to attend to this situation.
- That there be an appropriate cultural ceremony conducted at the prison to pay due respect to Indigenous cultural protocols.
- That arrangements be made to assist the other Indigenous prisoners to deal with the deep, psychological trauma of this event.
- That an urgent and independent investigation be established to look into all the relevant issues associated with this death in custody.
6. That an outside agency be retained to conduct the investigation.
7. That a panel be set up to facilitate the inquiry. That the panel consists of but not be restricted to the following – a senior Lawyer, a senior forensic pathologist, a senior member of the deceased man’s family and a senior member of the Aboriginal community.
8. That the Government immediately legislate all 339 recommendations of the Royal Commission into law so that all persons and agencies are bound by those recommendations and are legally accountable for any failure to implement those recommendations.
9. That the senior management of the prison at the time of this incident be suspended immediately until the inquiry has considered their individual and collective responsibility for this death.
10. That the Government convene a press conference and make a statement of sympathy & support for the family of the deceased man and a commitment to establishing the truth of what happened in the prison on the night of this incident.
The Brisbane Indigenous Community has called for an urgent public rally and protest at the Executive Building for 12 noon today, to present this letter to the Premiers Office and make sure that the Premier is fully aware of our community’s concerns about this most recent Aboriginal Death in Custody.
Then the white man took his bloodied boot
From the neck of the buggered black
Did you expect some gratitude
His smile ‘Good on you Jack?
— ‘The Flowering …by Kevin Gilbert
“Black poets sing, not in odes to Euripides or Dionysus, not Keats, nor Browning, nor Shakespeare; neither do they sing a pastoral lay to a ‘sunburnt country’ for they know that that russet stain that Dorothea Mackellar spoke of is actually the stain of blood, our blood, covering the surface of our land so the white man could steal our land.”— Kevin Gilbert, Inside Black Australia.
You can’t divorce what Lionel has written from what is going on in the streets of Brisbane today and tomorrow and the day after. It is part of our struggle; an important part of our struggle, as any book that is written – as Kevin Gilbert’s … – as any book that is written by Aboriginal people … We make no apologies for being overtly political; we see more clearly than anyone else in this country what is wrong with this country.
— Gary Foley, speech at the launching of Lionel Fogarty’s Yoogum Yoogum, Queensland Institute of Technology, Brisbane, September, 1982
In the few short weeks between 20 Feb 2010 and 2 May 2010 7 people died in custody in Australia . Nearly one person for every week. This poem is dedicated to those people.
My condolences go out to their Mum’s and Dad’s, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles and cousins.
oh! beautifu I brisbane city
today shame-faced & cowled
underneath dark subtropical clouds
yet across this country today
you beaut people
are grievin’ & angrily marchin’.
to make this death
the very last act of war
wi’ no more blakk deaths in custody
—Jim Sharp, ‘seventeenth of november ’93’
a member of Justice ’88