National Day to call for justice on Black Deaths in Custody

john pat apology by wa plt. and the sydney nda

around australia, on the stolen lands of the traditional owners, actions were held to support and incorporate the call for justice for not only the mother of john pat, mavis pat and her family, but for all the families who have died in custody. since 1980 to the present day there have been over 400+ aboriginal and torres strait islander deaths in custody. deaths at the hands of the australian police forces, at the hands of the gaol systems nationally, including the justice health personnel that services the custodial systems and juvenile justice is also included due to the deaths of juveniles.

the sydney event, even whilst complying with the day st. police, the sydney town hall authority and the sydney harbour foreshore authority, still had a police shadow over our inalienable right to protest in a peaceful manner. each authority required their piece of paper so they could ‘authorise’ our rally and march. we played the game with much aplomb, i think..

previous to our protest we were informed that we did not have the authority to march down the roadway, a preferable safer option, but we would be required to be restricted to the footpath for our march. isja argued that that order was not acceptable in any fashion but we would, in a spirit of democracy and reconciliation, seek from those attending the rally their views and wishes as to how we should proceed. the police officer involved growled at this idea and continued on to say that we could not have our 2 vehicles with us when we marched as they were seen as a ‘public hazard!’ again he was told that this was unacceptable. the officer was told that we would sort it out on the day.

we had filled out, or rather the duty officer at redfern police station had filled out the schedule 1 and none of these restrictions had been mentioned.

on saturday 28 we gathered at the sydney town hall with a sense that ‘something’ may happen. numbers were guesstimated at about 200 to 250. after the tremendous energy that was poured into advertising the protest we had expected more but this will be a discussion point at our next meeting. two individuals were identified as alleged police members working undercover but no police officer in uniform could be seen. this was strange as normally the police would visibly be there in force. the senior police would liaise as to the rally/march but this time, that didn’t happen.

our two invited speakers failed to attend but one had serious family issues to deal with. jenny munro spoke as did diane fields and peter boyle. we asked anna murray, sister of eddie murray who was murdered by the wee waa police in june 1981, who was present, to speak but she couldn’t as the trauma was still with her.
i had contacted several sydney-based death in custody families to attend and speak but they all declined. their decline was integral to their belief that as much as isja is actively committed to dic issues, and that that was good and it must continue, nevertheless there had been no change or justice found over the previous 25 or so years and they, the families, did not wish to relive their personal pain and trauma, especially publically.

this circumstance will be further discussed at our next isja meeting.

after the speakers, i put to the rally that it was their choice as to our next action and with a roar it was quite evident that we would march to circular quay down george street to invasion park. the decision was made.

immediately there were coppers everywhere to, as one senior officer said, protect our march by ensuring that it would be safe. and they did. when we reached invasion park at circular quay, they disappeared again. good service indeed.

isja congratulates all those who actively took part in the national day of action. take a solidarity cheer. the achievement of our comrades from the deaths in custody watch committee (wa) was a phenomenal success and one that i thought would not be possible and therefore never happen. they managed to get an apology to mavis pat out of the barnett state government. unbelievable!!!!!! i don’t know how they did it but they did it. we on this side of the aboriginal land have tried for nearly 10 long years (st. valentine’s day, 2014) to get our state parliamentarians to show respect to the family of tj hickey’s death arising from a redfern police chase.

we have at least managed to get a meeting for gail hickey and isja with the nsw aboriginal affairs minister, victor dominello, and the nsw attorney-general, greg smith, on investigating methods to be employed to allow for a new non-police investigation and a full and open coronial inquest to occur. the first meeting proved to be barren except for victor’s constant reminders that he was the first government minister to actually meet with gail.yes, we know, victor, but there was no follow through. greg on the other hand, as the first law man of the state and so sworn to uphold justice, offered well known advice and the insult of counselling.

offering counselling to families of death in custody victims is very much given with the single disgusting view of seeking an outcome that is morally and legally reprehensible. their perception of our families is so bloody warped by the genocidal history of the invasion that they truly consider that we do not grieve. we do not suffer sorry business. that life moves on and so should our families. for some we are still in the flora and fauna category. absolute shame. gail and so many others do not want counselling; that will come after when justice is finally allowed to happen. then counselling may occur.

our families grieve and are traumatised by not only the death of their loved one but by the total blind injustice that is brought to play to protect those who kill by the governments and courts of this country. we can bury our loved ones but we cannot, and never will be able to, ‘cop it sweet’ by a society that still dismisses us as nothing more than a legal irritant to be pushed aside as having no real human or legal rights. we are placed as nothing more than de trop!

advising aboriginal families that they can take legal action is a slap across their face. we cannot afford it. our legal service is not resourced enough and is facing cuts from the one who loves us, aka tony abbott. legal aid is also not able to assist. the fact that both are government funded i will leave in the air. so that leaves pro bono, which is now rare. the recent plea for funds from others also raises little. so our families are left with nothing. death in custody families must be funded by the individual governments as these cases do not have an end date.

for nearly 10 years, nsw government’s have had the moral opportunity to make apologies to gail hickey and other families who have had a loved one killed, whatever the circumstances, by sworn officers of the state who, tragically, have been granted the government-appointed immunity and impunity to do so. the nsw police association are so powerful that for 9 years they have successfully blocked a plaque being affixed to the fence line in honour of tj because they find the truth to be confronting. this is not police truth! other police said so, and lied in court to prove that the death of tj hickey was an accident. it was not. it was a police chase by a police detective gone wrong.

our nsw police not only stop the family, and his community, from putting up a plaque to honour tj, they will not allow the government to apologise to gail and the other families. when will the nsw government accept that we have more than just an expectation for justice and pull their ‘bully-boys’ into line and make them professional but accountable. we must not continue to live in neverland.

but to return to the wa parliament discussion leading to an apology. as i said the watch committee (wa) and its supporters are to be twice congratulated for the outcome of their efforts. well done to all.

the debate was initiated by ben wyatt, who i think is a cousin of ken wyatt in the abbott federal government, who, in my opinion, should be strongly emulating ben but sadly all i hear is silence.

maybe i’m just greedy and want it all but whilst the apology was quite acceptable to mavis pat and her family as such, it does not fulfil the full wishes of mavis pat. the apology is put by ben wyatt but he explains that the apology is not seeking the perpetrators who killed him. this is a ‘no-blame’ apology! this is a no justice apology! this is akin to a counselling apology whereby the family and the community are expected to move on and get a life as was once suggested to gail hickey.

it is great that ben wyatt and others put the work into at least answering one of mavis’s demands that went all over australia. there are other demands that mavis has made that need to be brought to a positive conclusion. my opinion, and i stress that it is only my opinion, that this apology and the stolen generations apology from kevin rudd are both hollow. the verbiage is flowery and full of bathos and pathos, with a fair smattering of ‘secret english.’

if i wrong you somehow and then make an apology, how true is it if i do nothing else? the mumbled words are not enough. what must follow is the person making the apology following that with positive actions to downrank the reason into oblivion. if we are walking down some stairs and i bumped you, i of course would apologise. but i would also take such action as required by allowing a greater distance between us. if i was to bump you and that caused you to drop your coffee cup. a mere apology is not enough. i have caused you to lose your coffee cup and i therefore need to recompense you for your loss. whether the loss is coffee, a family, a culture, whatever, that loss must be recompensed.

our federal governments continue with their weasel words, their secret english to make hollow apologies and fool the people that they care. the care they have for the stolen generations, the forgotten australians and the other groups that have lived through much historical abuse is the same care they have for the legitimate asylum seekers who seek legitimate refuge from their problem ridden countries. they spend more to impliment actions against the asylum seekers becoming australians than what it would cost to process them humanely. damn that white australia policy hangover!

rudd apologised for the taking of our children but it continues apace today in every state and territory. aboriginal children are taken at a far higher rate than non-aboriginal children. i have stated before, that unless the child is in active or possible danger of sexual, physical or mental abuse, then the child stays. our families do not match your white picket fence families and that needs to be recognised. this is but another way of breaking down our culture and identity and sadly and horribly we have been down that road before.

and anyway, these government departments in charge of these things have form. they have a history of political and social incompetence from the ministers down. their death rates for kids is beyond shameful. one report i read on this issue informed me that an officer recommended that the children of an aboriginal family be taken as victims of abuse. the abuse? the kids had no shoes! well bloody buy the kid shoes and leave them alone.

in the case of young john, the government and police of wa, as the initiator of the killing and the cover-up, need to ascertain that such deaths will and must not happen again. where is the call for real justice?

after ben wyatt come others who add to the sterile words of the apology being given. to read the words of mrs.harvey, wa minister for police, there has occurred such change as only wizards could perform. the wa police have changed, she says. i think mr spratt might have a word to say about that. perhaps the family of mr ward would ask the police, seeing such great change had happened within the force, why he was placed into a van with no air-conditioning in the back where he was. the cabin air-conditioning worked well, as i am informed, as did the cabin radio.

i could go on and perhaps i have gone on with too much enthusiasm but be that as it may, the arguments needed to be put. i am taking nothing away from the watch committee (wa), ben wyatt and others but please do not bask in your victory for too long.

mavis has other rightful demands that need to be fulfilled.

isja has demands also!


ray jackson
indigenous social justice association

(m) 0450 651 063
(p) 02 9318 0947
address 1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017

we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people.

sovereignty treaty social justice


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