Police killed the Dancer

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 …

—Judith Wright

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

—Judith Wright

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
John Pat

—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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. That there be an appropriate cultural ceremony conducted at the prison to pay due respect to Indigenous cultural protocols.
  4. That arrangements be made to assist the other Indigenous prisoners to deal with the deep, psychological trauma of this event.
  5. 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

Ian Curr
November 2011

2 thoughts on “Police killed the Dancer

  1. March to Musgrave says:

    daniel “boonie” yock” – strong, beautiful service last night at musgrave park. marched to the street corner where he was smashed into the cement by cops in 1993. we honour daniel & every person who has been murdered by police or prison guards. brother lionel spoke so well, young nephew kargun did welcome in wakka wakka language. very proud of you all. the struggle for justice goes on!! sw

  2. Sheldon Currie should never have been in Arthur Gorrie under the care of SERCO.
    Firms profit from deaths in custody.
    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

    EXCLUSIVE: Our Contract With Serco
    By Antony Loewenstein, Marni Cordell and Paul Farrell

    Today NM publishes the contract signed between the Department of Immigration and Serco, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act

    New Matilda has gained exclusive access to the first publicly available version of the 2009 Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) contract with British multinational Serco.

    The contract was obtained through a Freedom of Information request and reveals the most comprehensive information yet about the running of Australian detention centres.

    New Matilda’s analysis of the document reveals that:

    General security guards can begin work with no formal security qualifications and are only required to obtain a Certificate II within six months of working with Serco.
    Clinical depression, childbirth and voluntary starvation for under 24 hours are considered “minor” incidents while unauthorised media access is considered “critical”.
    Of these “minor” incidents, only 10 per cent are required to be audited internally by Serco.
    There is no contractual requirement of an independent audit of Serco’s management of detention centres.
    The first 80 pages of the contract can be downloaded here. Links to the remaining sections can be found at the end of this article.

    Other issues of note include:

    Serco is obliged to provide phone services to people in detention but the contract specifies that mobile phone handsets “[must] not have a recording facility (either audio or visual)”.
    Serco must also “control and limit” detainees’ internet access to pornography, FTP sites, and “prohibited sites in foreign languages”. It is not specified which sites are prohibited and under what law.
    If a member of the public complains or provides feedback about an immigration detention centre, Serco must notify the department within one day and provide a written response to the person within two weeks, “setting out the action taken of the reason why no action will be taken”.
    Serco is obliged to provide “tea, coffee, water and biscuits” when detainees have visitors and visiting areas must contain “hot/cold drinks and confectionery vending machines”.
    Serco must “not provide access to the Facility for media visits unless the visit has been approved by the Department” and must “ensure that media personnel only conduct activities approved by the Department”.
    Serco indemnifies DIAC from and against any loss arising from or as a consequence of any “death, or bodily injury, disease or illness (including mental illness) of any person including People in Detention” — this clause survives for a period of seven years following the expiration of the contract.
    According to a letter from DIAC’s FOI officer, Serco objects to DIAC’s decision to release some parts of this contract and has exercised its rights under FOI law to block access to those sections in the document marked “s27 consultation”.

    View the FOI officer’s decision and a full list of the documents that were blocked by Serco here.

    However, New Matilda has also obtained a leaked copy of the contract in which some of these blocked sections are visible.

    This version of the contract has not been officially released, and reveals:

    The internal and external perimeter of the detention centres are only required to be checked by security guards twice a day; at the opening of the centre and before it’s locked up.
    Checks to ensure detainees are “present and safe” are only required to be conducted four times a day.
    A carrot and stick system of “abatements” and “incentives” where Serco is fined for poor performance and rewarded with higher fees for good performance.
    Read the leaked version of the contract here.

    The fact that this contract has only been released now, more than two years after it was signed, reflects how closely guarded the agreement between Serco and the Federal Government remains.

    Last week, Serco’s Australian CEO Bob McGuiness told Perth Now that he was “gobsmacked” to hear Serco described as a “secretive organisation” in the media. “I find that astonishing,” he said.

    In fact, the contract prohibits Serco employees from speaking to the media at all. It reads:

    “The Service Provider must not, and will ensure that its officers, employees, directors, contractors and agents do not:
    Make any public statement;
    Release any information to, make any statement to, deal with any inquiry from or otherwise advise the media;
    Publish distribute or otherwise make available any information or material to third parties.”

    The hypocrisy of McGuiness’s comments is also remarkable in light of Serco’s attempts to block access to information that the DIAC FOI decision maker has argued should be public.

    The Labor government and DIAC agreed to the terms of this contract. By privatising immigration detention centres, successive Australian governments have kept these issues out of sight and out of mind, under the pretence of information being “commercial-in-confidence”. Bureaucratic buck-passing ensures little firm information is ever released.

    Many parts of the contract have still not been released on the decision of DIAC’s FOI officer — including the names of the Serco directors who manage relations with DIAC and run detention centres.

    Read NM’s extended coverage of the contract here and here.

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