• One of Ms Fisher-Tilberoo's sisters holds a photo of her on a mobile phone. (NITV News. )Source: NITV News.
The family of Birri Gubba woman, Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo, who died in police custody on Thursday last week, remember her as having a "loving and infectious" personality and being loved by many in the Brisbane Black community.
Douglas Smith

16 Sep 2020 - 5:29 PM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2020 - 9:12 AM

The family of Birri Gubba woman Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo said they were rarely graced with her presence over the years, but when they were, she was always a "loving and infectious" person to be around. 

On Thursday last week, Ms Fisher-Tilberoo who was 49-years-old, died in police custody at the Brisbane City Watchhouse after she was found unresponsive in her holding cell.

The tragedy has left her family "shocked" and calling for answers.  

Speaking to NITV News on Wednesday, her nephew, Troy 'Jungaji' Brady said his aunt had lived away from the family for the past 17-years and would only make rare appearances at family gatherings.  

“I used to refer to her as the Jabinima, that tree climbing kangaroo or an owl….you know she’s there but you don’t know until you hear her…and that was Aunty Sherry to us," said Mr Brady. 

"I have some very fond memories of her as a young fulla growing up in Inala, coming out to our parties, because mum would always have parties and invite all the families from both sides of the fence."

Mr Brady said his aunt was impacted harshly by trans-generational trauma, and "sadly" it led her to live a life on the streets for many years. 

“Aunty Sherry was a part of that framework, unfortunately…she lived a hard life you know, she chose the hard life and we didn’t condemn her for that," he said. 

“We loved her, all the same…that’s why every time when we see her, when we would catch up out of the blue, or if I see her in the [Fortitude] Valley, I make sure I go and squeeze her if I’m going for a gig and say, ‘hey, what are you doing, give her Janga [money] and said watamoli [goodbye] and that’s what we do with all family that’s doing it hard.

Ms Fisher-Tilberoo was the youngest of eleven siblings and had three children of her own, including eight grandchildren.  

"Aunty Sherry was the baby of all her siblings and she was a strong, cultural, urbanised Aboriginal woman who was proud of her cultural heritage, proud of her Birri Gubba bloodlines and proud of her family," said Mr Brady. 

“We were shocked when we heard of Aunty Sherry’s passing, particularly the circumstances around it.

“And reality hits hard like a tsunami when you’re told that your Aunty, your beloved family has passed away on a concrete floor in a watch house in Brisbane.”

Birri Gubba woman and older sister to Ms Fisher-Tilberoo, Katherine Brady, told NITV News that she was "wondering if they [police] could have done more" to help her sister before she passed last week.  

"We are waiting for the video cameras from the city watch house, we would like to see know what happened to her, or what help they could have offered her when she was sick in the watch house," said Ms Brady. 

Brisbane community support 

On Friday this week, a candlelight vigil will be held in honour of Ms Fisher-Tilberoo, who is now the 445th Indigenous person to die in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. 

"In terms of the Brisbane community rally around us for Aunty Sherry, we'll be holding a beautiful vigil and gathering at King George Square at 4 o'clock this Friday," said Mr Brady.  

"There will be a couple of speakers, probably including myself, just up there yarning and celebrating her life but also highlighting the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still continue to die in custody.

Mr Brady said he wanted the community support to be "peaceful" and invited anyone to attend to pay their respects.  

"That needs to be put out there into the media because us people can be wrongly represented through mainstream media and we want to make sure that the right messages are getting out there about Aunty and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

"I've encouraged everyone to bring candles, you see its anarchy overseas and in a state of dystopia, but we are encouraging people just to bring candles as a sign that we are marching peacefully, we are arching for another black life and we want justice." 

The vigil planned for King George Square on Friday at 4 pm, will be followed by a march across the river and into Musgrave Park, where the will be a community gathering.   

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