• Human rights law lawyers are set to bring the death of indigenous man David Dungay Jr in NSW custody in 2015 to an international audience. (AAP)Source: AAP
First Nations advocates say they are relieved over the landmark guilty verdict of a police officer over the murder of George Floyd but call for action and accountability over Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia.
Sarah Collard

21 Apr 2021 - 4:16 PM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2021 - 9:39 PM

On Wednesday, police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of 46 year old Black man George Floyd in May 2020, in what the US president Joe Biden called a ‘moment of significant change’ and racial justice. 

Last week Australia marked 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody probed the deaths of 99 Indigenous men and women — since that time at least 470 Indigenous people have died in custody. 

Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr died in Sydney’s Long Bay Prison in 2015 after corrections officers restrained him, to stop him eating biscuits.

During the struggle, he was pinned face-down by guards and sedated — CCTV recordings captured his final moments and his cries of ‘I can’t breathe’, pleas echoed by Mr Floyd 5 years later. 

Mr Dungay’s family are calling for justice and accountability over his death and said there has been a lack of transparency and action over First Nations deaths in custody. 

Calls for justice in Australia 

His mother Leetona said she welcomed the verdict in the United States which led to global protests but said it was bittersweet for her family. 

"We’re very proud of the Floyd family and their fight for justice. We need to continue the fight here and stop the deaths — we can change this system,” Leetona Dungay told NITV News. 

The Dungay family have been fighting for justice for the past six years, calling for Australia to have its own reckoning. 

Paul Silva is Mr Dungay’s nephew, and since his death in 2015 has advocated for justice for his family and others who have lost loved ones in custody. 

“Any death in custody in Australia should automatically be investigated by the Department of Public Prosecutions.” The Dunghutti man told NITV News. 

He said Australia needed to pay attention to what is happening in this country. 

“Wake up Australia — enough awareness isn’t raised about what is happening here. We just sweep it under the rug.” 

“What happened in those countries is still happening in Australia”

There has been no accountability for the deaths of hundreds of Indigenous people in custody, said Amnesty International Australia's Indigenous Rights Lead Nolan Hunter. 

This country needs to be accountable and do something and take action — not just pay lip service.” 

Across the country, there are two serving police officers who have been charged with murder over the deaths of Aboriginal people: 19 year old Kumanjayi Walker in the Northern Territory community of Yuendumu, and a 29 year old mother, known for cultural reasons as JC, in Geraldton in Western Australia. 

Mr Nolan said the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted deaths in custody here and the over-incarceration of First Nations people.

“It wasn't something happening somewhere else in another country but Black people and Aboriginal people here in Australia," said Mr Nolan.

“What happened in those countries is still happening in Australia.”


Former US police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in murder of George Floyd
The jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter after he was filmed kneeling on George Floyd's neck in May last year.