• The Point's co-hosts, JP Janke and Shahni Wellington (The Point)Source: The Point
Missed The Point this week? Catch up on the week's top stories here...
By
Neil McMahon

Source:
The Point
12 Jun 2021 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 12 Jun 2021 - 3:49 PM

DEATHS IN CUSTODY

Nearly two years after the death of a woman in hospital in Perth, The Point covered the imminent inquest into the death of Ms Wynne.

The 26-year-old Noongar-Yamatji woman died in 2019 after being admitted to hospital, where she spent five days on life support.

"We were basically instructed to say our goodbyes because she had swelling on the brain and we were just there every day at the hospital trying to find out what happened, trying to make sense of the whole situation,” said her cousin Tsheena Cooper.

Family of Ms Wynne still searching for answers as inquest looms
The family of Ms Wynne hope an inquest later this year will explain how she died following several incidents involving WA police.

Ms Wynne’s death was not classified as a death in custody despite her having multiple interactions with police before she was taken to hospital. Her death came two decades after her father also died in police custody.

“We’re still grieving for my brother from 22 years ago and 20 years later, his only daughter ends up arrested by the police and another death in custody,” said Ms Wynne's uncle Derek.

"It is unacceptable. We need to try and get to the bottom of it so no other family members go through what we have been through.”

Ms Wynne had three interactions with police before she was taken to hospital. In the first, a case of mistaken identity, she was handcuffed at her mother’s house before being released. Then she was picked up again nearby a few hours later. Then, after fleeing an ambulance, she was restrained on the side of the road.

Tsheena has been trying to piece together the events surrounding her cousin’s death together ever since.

“I really want justice because without justice how is she going to rest?"

The inquest will be held in September.

THE BLACKMAN’S POINT MASSACRE

The program explored the 1826 massacre of 300 people at Blackman’s Point near Port Macquarie in NSW and the long fight for official recognition of the atrocity.

Point host Shahni Wellington spoke to Traditional Owners and community members about the horrific history, passed down through generations.

“That story came from so many of the generations like cousins, the uncles, the great uncles or aunties. Through history there has been wars, there has been killings, all bad business has happened. Just because it is in your backyard, you don't not believe it or not connect with it or bury it,” said Birpai community leader Rhonda Radley.

Proving a massacre: Birpai people continue 200 year battle
With the support of the local council, Traditional Owners are now closer to having the brutal deaths of hundreds of Aboriginal men, women and babies at Blackmans Point formally recognised.

Ms Radley’s family has been seeking acknowledgement of the truth since 1967, when her grandfather approached the council to have the massacre formally recognised. A plaque acknowledging country was erected 40 years later, but with no mention of the massacre.

Descendants are still trying to find Western documentation of the massacre.

“I’m just hoping that we can close that circle and one day have a memorial day, a remembrance day here as a community together. That would close the circle for me.”

Written evidence from the 1889 journal of Henry Lewis Wilson tells of a bloody confrontation. It reads: “The soldiers got around the blacks and shot a great many of them, captured a lot of women and used them for a immoral purpose and then shot them.”

Ms Radley has been working with Sam Mehan to document the testimonies of senior men to make sure the truth isn't lost.

“There was a lot of joy in capturing the footage,” Mehan said. 

“Capturing the old people's stories and then as the old people began to pass away, there was that sadness that they're lost and they're gone now and we still have the story.”

Means Big Mob Films has worked on the Blackman's Point massacre documentary for years and it is now complete. After earlier opposition from locals to uncovering the truth, the council supported the completion of the documentary.

“Our job is to actually tell the story, and if the Indigenous people want that story told and it is part of their healing and reconciliation, that's a good thing,” said Dr Clare Allen of Hastings council.

“We’re on this journey together.”

BABY MICHAEL

The Point updated its recent story on the death of baby Michael and his families pursuit of lasting peace as it prepared to bury him this week for a third time.

Michael died in Westmead Hospital in 1971. Last year his remains were retrieved from a pauper’s grave and reburied. Then, the family was alerted by the hospital that it had found tissue samples belonging to Michael.

The family has now received an apology from the hospital and last week a smoking ceremony was held as authorities handed over a small wooden box containing the tissue samples. On June 10, the family will lay Michael to rest for a final time.

In a statement to NITV, the hospital said storing biopsies taken during an autopsy was standard practice in 1971 but this had since changed.

“We acknowledge further conversations and actions are necessary to truly heal the wounds of our shared history.”

VACCINE ROLLOUT

As Melbourne continued in lockdown, The Point covered the vaccine rollout, with all All Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders aged 16 to 49 now eligible for the Covid-19 jab.

Dawn Casey, deputy CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said just over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people had received their first dose. 

“That's looking very good from our perspective,” she said.

“We were doing extremely well … and then the issue was AstraZeneca was found not to be suitable for people under 50. There is no doubt that the rollout has been slowed down because of that fact and the availability of Pfizer which is now available and has started.

“It’s commenced in Melbourne. There has been a good spread across the country with the Pfizer vaccination … so that's starting to pick up now which is really promising.”

Ms Casey said there had been “huge hesitancy” when the first issues around the AstraZeneca vaccine were announced.

“The numbers have started to pick up … there has been no blood clots for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people recorded for those over 50 and the numbers for over 50 are in line with the broader Australian population. So we do need to do catch-up with Pfizer, and the Commonwealth is starting to roll that out in a couple of weeks.”

STOLEN WAGES

In WA, a class action against the state govenrnment to recover millions of dollars in stolen wages its set to go to mediation.

One of the parties to the class action, Averil Williams, told the program she was fighting on behalf of her parents and grandparents.

“My mum and dad are no longer here. My grandparents are no longer here,” Ms Williams said.

“They worked very hard for monies that they never received.”

NT class action launched over stolen wages
Lawyers say they have filed a class action on behalf of Indigenous stockmen, farmhands and domestic labourers who were forced to work for little or no pay during the last century.

Ms Williams father worked on sheep farms, while her mother was a member of the Stolen Generation and was sent out to work but ever paid.

“Payment was a roof over your head and food. Mum said she never received any money,” she said.

Lawyer Tristan Gaven said: “We think there is between 8,000 and 12,000 people impacted by these regimes over the years. Unfortunately in terms of the actual amount of money it is still too early to really tell to be able to put a dollar figure on it. We are talking millions and millions of dollars.

“The industries that people worked in varied across the state, but it was this work that allowed the state to prosper and that was on the back of this unpaid labour. 

“You are talking about people who worked their entire lives and weren't paid anything and now are dependent on welfare for just their day-to-day existence, and in terms of not being able to pass anything on to their children and grandchildren and people getting stuck in that cycle of impoverishment and welfare dependency. That's just such a consistent theme across the people that we've spoken with.”

The class action is heading to mediation next month. Lawyers are encouraging people to register for the class action and they are investigating a similar claim in the Northern Territory.

RIO TINTO’S NEW BOARD MEMBER

The Point interviewed Ben Wyatt, the former WA treasurer, who is the first Indigenous person appointed to the board of Rio Tinto as the mining giant attempts to repair its reputation afte the destruction of ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge last year.

Mr Wyatt acknowledged his corporate appointments since leaving parliament earlier this year had caused some controversy due to alleged conflicts with the ministerial code of conduct. He said he would take up the Rio Tinto role in September.

"I suspect those who are critiquing are in the space because they oppose the industries. Ultimately I’m perfectly entitled as anybody is to try and find employment when they leave parliament. 

“I have made it clear that Rio and other corporations need to have relationships with the traditional owner groups on land they operate that is not just productive, but brings in those organisations.”

Asked why reform of heritage protection laws was taking so long, Mr Wyatt said the process had repeatedly failed due to a lack of broad consensus.

Ben Wyatt wants to lead change within mining giant
The former WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Treasurer has hit back at criticism of his appointments to the boards of Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum soon after leaving politics.

“What the new legislation will do if it successfully makes its way through the parliament is ensure that agreements are struck around land use, around heritage sites, those that need to be protected and never ever touched,” he said.

Mr Wyatt was asked to respond to criticism of him joining the board of a mining giant.

“I was not expecting agreement by 100 per cent of Aboriginal people about me going on the board,” he said.

“Indeed, I suspect in Australia right now, I'm the one board member that's under gone more scrutiny than anyone else in Australia at the moment. 

“When I was minister, I had a pretty good relationship with them. I know that we engaged them regularly particularly … I always ensured that they had the consent of traditional owner groups."