• Apryl Day, Belinda Day and Warren Day with supporters in Melbourne outside the Coroners Court of Victoria. (AAP)Source: AAP
The award recognises the Day family's sustained advocacy to decriminalise public drunkenness in Victoria following the death in custody of their mother in 2017.
Douglas Smith

30 Jul 2021 - 1:41 PM  UPDATED 30 Jul 2021 - 1:41 PM

The children of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day have received the 2021 Voltaire Human Rights Award on Thursday - for their sustained activism for justice for First Nations people. 

Ms Day was arrested for public intoxication in December 2017, and was held in a cell at the Castlemaine Police Station before she died in hospital.

Since her death, her four children, Apryl, Belinda, Warren and Kimberly Watson were instrumental in pushing to change public drunkenness laws, with the offence decriminalised in February.

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The decriminalisation of public drunkenness was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 30 years ago.

Speaking to NITV News, Apryl said receiving the award was "bittersweet".

“It’s been difficult to be able to do that advocacy work while still on that healing journey,” she said.

“We are thankful to be able to receive the award and we are thankful for all the mob and allies that helped us get to the point that we're at today.

“But if we had it our way, we would have our mum back and not these awards and the recognition for the activism we've done."

Last year, Apryl founded the Dhadjowa Foundation, a national grassroots organisation that provides support for Indigenous families who have lost loved ones in custody. 

She is also part of a working group in Victoria that will develop sobering up centres for when a public health response is needed. 

Liberty Victoria President Julia Kretzenbacher acknowledged the efforts of the family. 

“The advocacy work of the children of Tanya Day is an example of an extraordinary commitment to human rights,” she said.

“The family’s sacrifice and effort at a time of great personal grief and their ongoing public advocacy to seek justice in relation to Tanya’s death has resulted in a community-wide benefit."

Apryl said her family will continue to fight for better outcomes for Indigenous people.

"All we can hope for now is that, with that law being gone and a public health response to take its place, no other mob have to go through what we have gone through and hopefully it keeps people safe."

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