Since the 1991 Royal Commission, 437 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody. Since then, a 2018 Deloitte report commissioned by the Government also revealed “the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander share of the prison population has doubled” over the past three decades.
Wednesday night’s episode of The Point raised questions over the status of the 339 royal commission recommendations and whether or not they were ever implemented with discussions between co-hosts Rachael Hocking and John-Paul Jenke and a number of guests, including Roxanne Moore and Wesley Enoch.
The episode also paid tribute to George Floyd whose horrific death in custody was captured on film in May, sparking global outrage, protests and more recently, desperate calls for urgent racial justice amid a growing Black Lives Matter movement.
Labor Senator and Former RCIADIC Commissioner, Patrick Dodson, briefly joined the show, reflecting on decades of state-sanctioned violence. Senator Dodson described these issues as “endemic to a nation that’s constantly wanting to subjugate the First Nations peoples.”
Just hours before, Senator Dodson spoke in Parliament, calling on the Government to “stop the rot” and urgently address the “lack of action and commitment” surrounding incarceration and deaths in custody.
Noongar woman and Human Rights Lawyer, Roxanne Moore, called for drastically improved services to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out of the justice system.
“Until these Royal Commission recommendations are implemented, we’re not going to see the change needed to stop the mass criminalisation of our people," Moore said.
“I think it’s really hard that it’s taken something from the United States to shine a light on this horrific injustice here in Australia, because the families and communities have been calling for this change for so many years and will continue to do so."
Co-panelist, Noonuccal Nuugi man and Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, shared similar sentiments, “we’ve been saying it for decades. This is not new to us”.
“Here’s a police force that has very little cultural competency, very little tools, very little training in how to de-escalate," Enoch said.
Co-host Janke interviewed the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, asking if the federal minister was distressed by the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody.
“Part of the work I’m doing now is going back and re-reading the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody because we had the same issues then," Wyatt responded.
Wyatt correlated deaths in custody rates to “underlying issues that were causative factors”, including “poor health” and “high rates of interaction with police” before going on to speak about his fears of a second wave of COVID-19 following country-wide protests over the weekend.
Gomeroi law scholar and poet, Alison Whittaker, also joined the show and described the Government’s monitoring of the royal commission outcomes as “largely ad hoc” and driven by political pressure rather than robust strategy.
“Mob have been calling for an independent First Nations-led body to lead the monitoring of this for a long time”, Whittaker said, suggesting this as a means of being able “to do the role of the coroner."
This approach, she said, would enable First Nations people to “articulate deaths in custody on our own terms and [to] be able to articulate them in a way that a lot of mob see them… which is as violence.”
Rio Tinto’s Giant Muddle Up Costs 40,000 Years of Sacred Juukan Gorge Grounds
Protesters are calling for Rio Tinto’s mining operation to halt immediately after the blasting of more than 40,000 years of sacred grounds at Juukan Gorge.
Traditional custodians asked state ministers to intervene before the blasting, but the detonation proceeded anyway.
The Point spoke briefly with Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Traditional Owner, Deloris Corbin, who said, “I would like them to come straight back, first priority is to clean that gully up and preserve our cave to the best they can.
“We did have a cave there with history. But there’s nothing now and it’s very disheartening.”
Minister Wyatt confirmed that Elders were not consulted with and called on such protocols to be observed in future.
- You can watch The Point on Wednesday evenings at 8.30pm on NITV (Ch34).
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