• A still from the Ms Dhu video. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The frontman of band The Cat Empire hopes a song he has recorded with an Indigenous youth choir will raise awareness about the death in custody of Ms Dhu and raise funds for her family, who have been devastated by her death.
Robert Burton-Bradley

10 Jan 2017 - 11:44 AM  UPDATED 10 Jan 2017 - 12:48 PM

The Cat Empire frontman Felix Riebl and an Indigenous Children’s Choir have created a new song to raise awareness of the death in custody of Ms Dhu. 

The song called 'Ms Dhu', was produced by The Cat Empire vocalist Felix Riebl in conjunction with the Marliya singers from the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.

Ms Dhu, whose first name is not used for cultural reasons, died two days after being locked up at South Hedland Police Station in August 2014 for unpaid fines totalling $3622.

Riebl said he was travelling with the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir through the Pilbara region when he heard of Ms Dhu's story and was moved to write the song.

"You realise how dreadful the situation was, [how] unjust and how wrong on so many different levels, that this poor woman was let down every step of the way and shouldn't be dead now," he told NITV News.

"What I try to do in the song is tell it as clearly as I could, and the kids singing the chorus really make up the heart of the piece."

Riebl has been in touch with Ms Dhu's family and ensured they had final approval over the song's content and said any proceeds will go to the family.

"We want this song to stand alone as a purely community-based incentive and all proceeds will go to the family. It's been an incredibly powerful experience," he said.

Riebl said he wanted the song to raise awareness of Ms Dhu's tragic death, but also help push for reform in how the legal system treats Indigenous Australians.

"Awareness is the first thing mainly, because the coronial inquiry came out a few days before Christmas. We were in touch with the family and we really didn’t want that story, and the necessity for people to know that story, to be lost in 2017," he said.

"We are deliberately bringing out this song in 2017 to put the tragedy of Ms Dhu back in people’s minds." 

Ms Dhu's death entirely preventable

Coroner Ros Fogliani found that Ms Dhu's death could have been prevented if her illness had been diagnosed in the days before her death in 2014.

She said Ms Dhu's treatment was unprofessional and inhumane. However, she made no recommendations for any charges or disciplinary action be taken against any of the police or hospital staff involved.

Ms Fogliani did make several recommendations in her findings and also agreed to release footage showing Ms Dhu's final hours, except for vision of her moments before death.

Some footage shows police dragging and carrying Ms Dhu's limp body to a police van.

Another clip shows an officer pulling Ms Dhu by the wrist to sit her up before dropping her, causing Ms Dhu to hit her head.

An autopsy found her death was partly caused by complications from a previous rib fracture, which became infectious and spread to her lungs, as well as from pneumonia and septicaemia. 

Comment: Ode to Ms Dhu a powerful means to expose racism and demand justice
The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl has just released a song about Ms Dhu's death to create awareness, expose racism and demand for justice.