• Leetona Dungay, whose son David Dungay Jr died in Long Bay jail in 2015, at a Sydney Black Lives Matter protest. (AAP)Source: AAP
“I can’t breathe, the same words that my son said … I can’t breathe," David Dungay Junior's mother said.
Neil McMahon

16 Jul 2020 - 5:05 PM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2020 - 5:05 PM

On Wednesday night, Karla Grant’s Living Black: Aboriginal Lives Matter special explored the Black Lives Matter movement from the perspectives of three Australian families - and found that a protest movement built amid fury over the deaths of an African-American man has had profound resonance on the other side of the world.

As Ms Grant said in her introduction: “The dying words of George Floyd - ‘I can’t breathe’ - galvanised people across the globe.”

They were felt with particular pain in the family of David Dungay Junior, the 26-year-old Dunghutti man who died in Long Bay Jail in 2015.

His mother, Leetona, shared her story alongside video of the death of George Floyd and the prison footage recording the death of her own son.

Of the world-famous Floyd video that sparked the global protests in recent weeks, Leetona said: “I can’t breathe, the same words that my son said … I can’t breathe.”

It is haunting to watch the two videos, and to hear David Dungay’s cries: “I can’t breathe, please, let me up, please.”

“Compare the two pictures together," Leetona said. "How are you going to say you never murdered both of these people?”

Ms Grant noted that the Floyd movement "allowed Australians to look at their own failures." 

On a bus ride to Sydney, Dungay’s brother Ernie was pictured heading to the Black Lives Matter protest - which had just been declared illegal.

“I don’t want to go to jail and leave my partner and my babies behind,” he said of his nervousness about what might happen at the event.

Ernie reflected that his brother was “kind hearted, happy-go-lucky… he was like Mum.

"The hardest thing I've done in my life was tell my mother that my brother had been killed,” he said.

“I want them all to get charged and be accountable for what they did," Leetona said. "If they’ve got any soul … why don’t they just own up?”

In the words of the family's lawyer, George Newhouse: “It shouldn’t be for traumatised Aboriginal families like Leetona to be leading the fight for justice. …It should be for our nation to pick up this challenge and run with it. Until that happens people are going to have to go out on the street and protest.”

“You can pull me down, you drag me down, you can shoot me … I’m going to march.” 

As the program depicted, thousands took to the streets to reflect that the specific relevance of the global Black Lives Matter movement in Australia.

“You can pull me down, you drag me down, you can shoot me … I’m going to march,” Ernie said.

Protesters also included the family of Rebecca Maher, who died in a Maitland police cell in 2016.

“One day her four children are going to grow up and want to know who their mother was and what sort of a person she was and I hope that they get to know that she was loving and just a beautiful, beautiful young Wiradjuri warrior. Three of her children are still 10, 8 and 7 … they won’t know what it was like to have their mum hold them,” Aunty Tracey Hanshaw, the family's support person, said. 

Also interviewed were Taleah and Makayla Reynolds, the sisters of Nathan Reynolds, who died in prison in 2018 after an asthma attack.

An inquest into Mr Reynolds’ death is due to be held this year.