• Fifteen families who have lost loved ones in custody have started a petition asking the PM to meet with them. (AAP)Source: AAP
Fifteen families who have lost loved ones in custody have started a petition, asking for the PM to meet with them.
Keira Jenkins

16 Dec 2020 - 9:14 PM  UPDATED 16 Dec 2020 - 9:18 PM

Almost thirty years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 15 families who have lost loved ones are calling on the Prime Minister to meet with them.

Troy 'Jungaji' Brady is the nephew of Birri Gubba woman Aunty Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo, who died in Brisbane City Watchhouse in September.

Mr Brady said addressing the crisis of deaths in custody is a matter of urgency.

"Why are so many of our people over-policed and overincarcerated and overrepresented," he said.

"In this day and age it's deplorable and something needs to be done. It's a national emergency that demands national action.

"That's why we are seeking to talk to the leader of this country." 

His family is one of the many behind a petition calling for justice for their loved ones.

Aunty Sherry's portrait is also featured in a recent Rolling Stone Australia Black Lives Matter spread to accompany the petition.

Her photo sits alongside pictures of Wayne Fella Morrison, Tanya Day, Tane Chatfield, Stanley Inman, Raymond Noel Thomas, Nathan Reynolds, Ms Dhu, Joyce Gladis Clarke, Gareth Jackson Roe, David Dungay Jr, Christopher Drage, Trisjack Simpson, Cherdeena Wynne and John Cooper.

Ms Dhu died at Port Hedland Police station where she was locked up for unpaid fines. She complained she was unwell, but officers didn't believe her.

The Yamatji woman's grandmother, Aunty Carol Roe, said her family is still grappling with her death six years later.

"The reality is my granddaugher was killed in prison," she said.

"Nothing had been done about it. No one has been held accountable, not even a slap on the wrist. 

"We, as a family are still devastated, we still haven't finished grieving, and we can't until we get justice, and this didn't just happen yesterday - six years we've been waiting."

'We'll grieve forever'

Raymond Noel Thomas died in a car accident, a short distance from his home, following a police pursuit in 2017.

The Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man's  father - Ray Thomas - said three years on from his son's death, they're also still waiting for justice.

"We're still lost over everything," he said.

"We're still grieving and we'll grieve forever."

But Mr Thomas said he takes heart in knowing that there has been so much attention drawn to the issue of deaths in custody.

"It's comforting to know that we've got support there, and even now there's a change and a shift in the country in regards to support for our cause and human rights," he said.

Mr Brady said while attention is being directed at this issue, there is still much more change needed.

He said he hopes his family, and the others who have joined forces on this petition can start making that change.

"We're a people that are hurting, but we're not going to lie down and continue to be kicked in the face or kneed in the necks so we can't breathe," Mr Brady said.

"No, sorry. You're going to be held accountable."  

The next step is getting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to meet with them. 

Mr Brady said, he's just hoping for an open and honest conversation.

"We're hoping that he'll show some compassion, be empathetic and just sit down and have a truthful yarn with us, say these are the issues, what are we going to do moving forward, where are we going to be 50 years from now," he said.

"Are my grandkids going to be safe in their community without being pulled over, or, worst case being shot or strangled to death."

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