• "My nephew is a victim of the Intervention. I thoroughly believe that he is. If you're living in Alice Springs and you're Aboriginal this is a Police State" (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Anmaterr woman, Patricia Morton-Thomas, speaks about death in Custody, racism and her experiences living with a BasicsCard under Income Management in the NT.
Paddy Gibson

22 Jun 2017 - 10:41 AM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2017 - 10:43 AM

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should exercise caution when viewing this article as it contains names and images of deceased persons, which may cause distress to members of these communities.

In January 2012, Kwementyeye Briscoe, died in a police cell after being taken into 'protective custody'.

He was assaulted by police and left alone and unsupervised in his cell for hours. No one was ever charged for this death.

For many, Kwementyeye was a friend, brother a son. But for Anmaterr woman, Patricia Morton-Thomas, he was her nephew, and she believes he was a victim of the NT Intervention. 

In April 2012 she spoke about his death and racism in Alice Springs as well as her experiences living with a BasicsCard under Income Management:

Patricia Morton-Thomas

"I have been saying my nephew is a victim of the Intervention, and I thoroughly believe that he is. If you're living in Alice Springs at the moment and you're Aboriginal, this is a Police State.

Police are breaking into homes just dragging people away in the night. This happened in the middle of the day in my house. Yesterday I had about 15 police officers storm my backyard for one of my nephews. They damaged property, they just came in out of nowhere. One moment we were sitting there having a cup of coffee and a cigarette because we’d just done some gardening, and the next moment the whole yard was swarming with police.

"Aboriginal people aren't even perceived as human beings anymore."

The Intervention has allowed for every racist to come out of the closet with guns blazing. The Northern Territory really has become like an apartheid system the more I look at it. I remember looking at South Africa when apartheid was going on. Aboriginal people aren't even perceived as human beings anymore.

In this town they are carrying on that Aboriginal people shouldn’t be drinking in public areas. Where are they going to go? I've tried to take my nieces out on the town. They’ve got ID on them, they haven't been drinking before we get there but they're turned away on the suspicion that they're drunk. At the same time you have all these non-Aboriginal people [and bouncers say] “No worries, you can go in.”

I've been down to Araluen Park which is a public place, there's not allowed to be any drinking there, yet I've seen non-Aboriginal families sitting down having a picnic. A nice family atmosphere, but they're all sitting around with glasses of wine or a glass of beer or something. If Aboriginal people were sitting around in the same situation the whole lot would be locked up.

I've had one security officer actually shove my mother, who is in her 70s, telling her to move on."

An Aboriginal person will walk into a shop and they're the last person served, regardless of whether they’ve walked in first or not. This has been happening forever, the Intervention has just brought it more out into the open.

I've had one security officer actually shove my mother, who is in her 70s. She’s standing outside the supermarket waiting for me, they come along and they shove her, telling her to move on. This 30 year-old man starts shoving a 70 year-old woman around.

In terms of Income Management, it’s an extremely demoralising thing the BasicsCard honestly. One week I'm left with about $120 cash and the rest of it sitting in my BasicsCard. If I want to pay a bill I actually have to go in to Centerlink with all my paperwork, sit there for an hour or two waiting in line. If you have an electricity bill that needs to be paid today, you go in to Centrelink they actually can't get it paid for two or three days.

"No one has ever been held to account for any of those deaths, and in this instance I also know that’s not going to happen either."

They're limiting where we can travel and how we can travel. You’re really stuck in the Northern Territory. I was in Adelaide for a week and despite the fact I had about $800 on my BasicsCard I couldn’t use any of it. I'm sitting in Adelaide starving, having to borrow money off people which I then have to pay back out of my very limited actual cash fund.

It's $6000 per person per year to manage the basic card setup. That $6000 could have been used for something far more important. It's such a ridiculous thing.

We've buried my nephew but it's not over and I don’t think it will ever be over. The Coronial inquest is in June, and I think that’s just going to bring more grief to us. If you look at the history of the justice system in regard to deaths in custody, no one has ever been held to account for any of those deaths, and in this instance I also know that’s not going to happen either.


Trisha Morton-Thomas is a renowned actor, writer, and filmmaker. An Anmaterr woman living in Alice Springs. She has worked in film and television for over 20 years. She has a background in radio broadcasting, journalism and theatre. Some of her recent work includes writing and producing 8MMM, a comedy series on ABC TV and appearing in Redfern Now. Trisha was the family spokesperson during a campaign for justice for her nephew Kwementyeye Briscoe.

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