“Black Lives Matter is a reality because All Lives don’t matter yet, and we have to make everyone matter.” Speech Thomas
Breaking News: PM Turnbull to set up royal commission into mistreatment of children in detention http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-26/turnbull-calls-for-royal-commission-into-don-dale/7660164
Child hooded, strapped to mechanical restraint chair in Northern Territory detention
First Nation people are being made criminals by virtue of their race.
Heavy handed police arresting a Wonnarua elder: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1248397668518123&id=168159846541916
Only police can stop this now with pressure from politicians and the Australian justice system.
From 1982 to 2008 there have 2,056 deaths in custody, 379 of them Aboriginal deaths. Aboriginal deaths to 2013 are now past 420. This is a national disgrace.
Aboriginal Australians have learnt to fear for the lives of family members who end up in police cells or jail.
—The Saturday Paper
There has never been a successful prosecution against any police or prison officer in that they contributed an unnatural hand in a police or prison custodial related incident. Let us remind ourselves that it took confrontational protests and the burning of the Palm Island Police Station to bring to the light of day the death in police custody of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee and yet justice has not been done, Officer Craig Hurley is yet to atone while Palm Island councillor Lex Wotton was sent to prison.
Petition for police, law makers and politicians to spend time with elders to be more culturally aware and sensitive on the job.
History shows that “covert” insidious racism is more difficult to detect. Institutions such as Police Services can operate in a racist way without at once recognising their racism. (Stephen Lawrence Enquiry)
Community pressure was being brought to bear on the government in relation to the disproportionate numbers of Indigenous men and women dying in custody. As a result a Royal Commission was established. In 1991 Commissioner Johnston release the report along with some 300 recommendations.
The question that can be asked here is has anything changed from the past? Superficially there have been great changes. We now have recruiting strategies and units, liaison, community participation and representation. But on the whole there are not a lot of dramatic differences. We still had to have a Royal Commission to tell us these things are needed.
Whilst there has been some change from the days of the Native Police, there is not a dramatic difference. There is no collective want or need to change within police organisations and this is reflected by the government who dictate policy. Lip service is paid to most initiatives yet there is no real support behind them. In most organisations there is a vision of whose face ‘fits’ and this is especially true of policing when the dominant police culture sees Black as the ‘other’, that ‘other’ equals criminal. As a result many Indigenous police are made to feel they don’t fit.
A 14 year old bring the audience to tears with a poem about police brutality and white privilege.
Our system of policing has its genesis in the control and enforcement methods from England. This form of policing was transplanted to Australia and followed closely along the lines of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) (O’Malley 1983, Northam 1986, Reiner 1986, Finnane 1994, Blackler 1996). Recruits to this model of policing were single, had some military training, were posted to areas with no family or friends; and were frequently transferred to prevent fraternisation with the local population. The rationale was that policing of the population was more effective if the population was alien (Hill 1986:127).
In the past colonials were actively dispossessing Indigenous people of their lands but without the guise of prescriptive legislation. Subsequent legislation was enacted to make dispossession ‘legitimate’ and to ‘protect’ Aborigines from unscrupulous whites and themselves (Bennets and Castle 1979). The system was founded on the premise that Indigenous people were not the equals of non-Indigenous people. This premise was reflected in all government policies. NSW passed the 1909 Aborigines Act which legitimised a series of State controls. The aim of this Act was to break up centres of Aboriginal population. Further powers obtained in 1915 allowed wholesale welfare intervention, resulting in the removal of children from their families, to be relocated into institutions, missions or non- Indigenous families (Finnane 1994).
Queensland enacted the 1897 Protection Act which was the model for Northern, Western and Central Australia. These policies concentrated and segregated the community according to the amount of Aboriginal ‘blood’ a person possessed. ‘Full bloods’ were removed to protected reserves. Those of ‘mixed blood’ were removed to missions and subjected to scrutiny and control (Finnane 1996). As a result, Indigenous people were being made criminals by virtue of their race. In Western Australia a ‘half-caste’ male could obtain an exemption certificate which gave him the status of a full blood white man. To obtain this he had to renounce his Aboriginality and not associate with any Aboriginal people again (Biskup 1973).
The dog licence act of Western Australia was another piece of legislation designed to make Indigenous people criminals. This included:
* no Indigenous person (other than a half caste male who had renounced his Aboriginality) could move from one place to another without the permission of the Protector
* parents did not have custody of their own children
* the property of a minor was automatically managed by the Protector
* Aborigines could be ordered out of town or ordered to a reserve or mission and confined there
* the Commissioner of Native Affairs could object to any marriage (Elder 1988)
In NSW in 1938 Aborigines could not vote, obtain alcohol, receive a pension if their Aboriginal blood was dominant, obtain cash payments for family allowance – only orders for goods and any other restrictions in accordance with the Act (Elder 1988). Obtaining work was also a problem. Indigenous work was associated with domestics or labouring. Work was hard to come by and wages were lower than those of non-Indigenous people in the same employment and social status was low, lower than the working classes. The Vagrancy legislation of the 1820’s meant that police had substantial powers over the working classes and poor yet the amount of power delivered into the hands of police by virtue of the protectionism legislation was phenomenal. In 1932 in Moree NSW, lobbying by hostile rural whites on health grounds, resulted in the removal of ALL Indigenous people, including those in local employment, to the banks of the Moree River. This act of policing earned the local constabulary great praise from the Chief Protector (Finnane 1996).
Social control was all pervasive and administrative. It gave absolute power to police with little scrutiny by the courts. Yet in 1932 Queensland Police were instructed not to make notes of the orders issued for the removal of Aboriginal people as these orders may be called upon to be presented in court (Queensland Police Circular Memo 2 Feb 1932, A/36282 cited in Finnane 1996:123).
The words ‘Aboriginal problem’ now begins to emerge in writings from this era. Indigenous people were starting to be seen as one big homogeneous problem. The solution to the problem was to control by containment. Although statistics show the acceleration of of Indigenous incarceration increased after the 1950’s, the general consensus is that after the 1967 referendum, the intense policing policies changed (Biskup 1973, Elder 1988, Reynolds 1992, Finnane 1996). Far from being inclusionary, many policing practices became covert and exclusionary. Without specific legislation there was an increase in arrests and incarceration for offences that non-Indigenous people would be unlikely to be arrested for. This was and still is colloquially known as the offence of ‘being Black in a public place’ and encompasses the notorious trifecta legislation of offensive language, resist arrest and assault police.
Domestic and International Policy
Although the last of the protectionism era’s policies were not repealed until 1984 in Queensland, by the 1960’s pressure was being placed upon the government in relation to Indigenous policies. Our own hypocrisy was being questioned in International forums. Australia was publicly challenging South Africa in relation to apartheid whilst covertly enforcing the same policies here (Tatz 1979). Australia had been a voting member of the United Nations (UN) since its inception but until 1961 had a policy of dissenting or abstaining from UN motions condemning apartheid. During the protectionism era, Australia was in direct violation of 9 of the Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This convention was adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948 (see Articles 9,10, 13, 16, 17, 21, 22, 25, 26).
In 1949 Australia was openly questioned by the international community in relation to protectionism policies. The Kim Beazley Snr wrote to the Prime Minister requesting special Indigenous representation in parliament and the States to relinquish Aboriginal control to the Federal government as:
“Commonwealth representatives at international conferences are constantly being held responsible for Aboriginal policies pursued in Australia by State governments” (cited in Tatz 1979:101).
In 1965 Australia was a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). This convention came into effect in 1969 (Report of National Enquiry into Racist Violence 1991). In August 1978 the Australian delegate to the World Conference on Racism condemned apartheid and racism saying;
“We are utterly opposed. Australia (coyly) recognises that Aborigines have been particularly disadvantaged in the past. However our contribution to this the anti-Apartheid Year of 1978 and to the decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (which began in 1973), is the Racial Discrimination Act” (Cited in Tatz 1979:101)
The frustration continued. In response to the Liberal government’s Aboriginal Affairs Policy a tent embassy was established on the lawns of the then Parliament House. There the Aboriginal flag was raised for the first time. Prime Minister William McMahon claimed in the policy that land rights would ‘threaten the security and tenure of every Australian’ (Parbury 1988:133).
The Labor government came to power in 1972 and with it a promise to legislate land rights. The first Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the precursor to ATSIC was established. A land fund was established to buy land for communities. Consultation featured heavily and an Aboriginal elected advisory council advised the government on Indigenous matters. Land Councils were also implemented. In 1975 there was another change of government and Indigenous funding was cut by 30%. Yet the Prime Minister of the day, Malcolm Fraser, was denigrated by members of his own party for being pro Aboriginal (Parbury 1988).
In 1983 Labor was elected. Labor’s land rights policy was seen as political suicide. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Clyde Holding said “we would like to recognise your rights but our white constituents won’t let us” (Parbury 1988:137). It is against this background that our contemporary policies are founded. High Court decisions such as Mabo and Wik acknowledge the need for serious redressing of earlier atrocities as well as RICADIC and the Stolen generation enquiries.
Since the election of the coalition government in 1996 we have seen a gradual erosion of the advances made during the past decade. Funding cuts and a desire to denigrate anything seen as ‘politically correct’ has given rise to a form of respectable racism. The reemergence of the white superiority argument and the misguided belief that Indigenous people receive more in the way of pecuniary advantage than the average non-Indigenous person are enjoying support from sections of the community.
Return to Policing 1980-1995
It is against this background that we start to see a return to Indigenous representation in policing. Almost 20 years ago the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) on Aboriginal Criminological Research was discussing the;
“Disappointing experience of police forces trying to recruit and keep Aboriginal Officers showed a need for research on what is needed to keep Aborigines culturally content within the police” (1981:23).
Western Australia established a special cabinet committee on Aboriginal /police relations after several racist incidents (Skull Creek 1974, Laverton 1975). This committee was generally regarded as unable to provide any lasting impact. The Ruddock Report (1980) stated;
“Although the committee provides a forum in which Aboriginal people can express their views, it is continued to an advisory role and the police department is under no compulsion to implement its recommendations” (in Hazelhurst 1985:53).
At the 1985 Justice Programmes for Aboriginal and other Indigenous Communities Seminar, Dr Roberta Sykes argued recruiting Blacks to the ranks of aide and liaison officer would achieve very little. She went on to state;
“While the authorities pretend to us that they are acting in our best interest, very little can be achieved regardless of motivation. We recognise when we are being patronised and do not like it. Patronisation is not a relationship which exists between equals. It carries with it the continuation of a power relationship which is mean to keep one part powerful and one part powerless” (in Hazelhurst 1985:24-25).
The term ‘institutionalised racism’ is a very harsh way to describe police organisation. Lord Scarman defined institutionalised racism as
“If, by [institutionally racist] it is meant that it [Britain] is a society which knowingly, as a matter of policy, discriminates against black people, I reject the allegation. If, however, the suggestion being made is that practices may be adopted by public bodies as well as private individuals which are unwittingly discriminatory against black people, then this is an allegation which deserves serious consideration, and, where proved, swift remedy”. (Para 2.22, p 11 – Scarman Report).
Scarman argues further in his report there is not wholesale racism in policing nor do police have a policy of racism. This is hardly likely when there are laws which regulate against racism. Nor could Lord Scarman totally understand what it is like to have to operate within an organisation that is inherently racist. Consider the submission of the Metropolitan Police Black Police Association to the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry in 1999;
“…. institutional racism …. permeates the Metropolitan Police Service. This issue above all others is central to the attitudes, values and beliefs, which lead officers to act, albeit unconsciously and for the most part unintentionally, and treat others differently solely because of their ethnicity or culture”
“The term institutional racism should be understood to refer to the way the institution or the organisation may systematically or repeatedly treat, or tend to treat, people differentially because of their race. So, in effect, we are not talking about the individuals within the service who may be unconscious as to the nature of what they are doing, but it is the net effect of what they do”.
“… the majority of police officers are white, tends to be the white experience, the white beliefs, the white values. Given the fact that these predominantly white officers only meet members of the black community in confrontational situations, they tend to stereotype black people in general. This can lead to all sorts of negative views and assumptions about black people, so we should not underestimate the occupational culture within the police service as being a primary source of institutional racism in the way that we differentially treat black people. Interestingly I say we because there is no marked difference between black and white in the force essentially.
We are all consumed by this occupational culture. Some of us may think we rise above it on some occasions, but, generally speaking, we tend to conform to the norms of this occupational culture, which we say is all powerful in shaping our views and perceptions of a particular community”. (Inspector Paul Wilson Part 2, Day 2, p 209):
“The fact that skin colour is such a powerful symbol due to our colonial history. It is not a sign of our innate and fundamental inequality. It is not a difference itself which is the problem but the social problems based on it” (Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Vol 4 ).
To monitor deaths in custody, the Australian Institute of Criminology established a national deaths in custody program which should publish an annual report.
A decade ago, the program was delivering its reports within days of the close of the reporting period – the 2003, 2004 and 2005 reports were delivered within one month. Then, without explanation, each of the next 3 reports took between 16 months and 2 years to appear. The 2009-11 report has been almost 3½ years in the making.
[The deaths in custody report] paints a horrific portrait of the state of indigenous criminal justice.
—Inga Ting, journalist, Sydney Morning Herald
I am constantly stunned when many senators tell me that they are not aware of Australia’s death in custody record.
—Gerry Georgatos, Human Rights Alliance, Perth
Aboriginal Australians have learnt to fear for the lives of family members who end up in police cells or jail.
—The Saturday Paper
The commission’s recommendations
The conclusion was that too many Aboriginal people are in custody too often. In its report the commission made 339 recommendations, for example
87. Arrest people only when no other way exists for dealing with a problem.
92. Imprisonment should be utilised only as a sanction of last resort.
161. Police and prison officers should seek medical attention immediately if any doubt arises as to a detainee’s condition.
339. Initiate a formal process of reconciliation between Aboriginal people and the wider community.
The last recommendation led to the establishment of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
One of the fundamental lessons of the royal commission was that Aboriginal people die in custody too often because they’re in custody too often and we need to stop locking up people for minor offences, particularly things like public drinking.
—Jonathon Hunyor, lawyer
Aboriginal prison rates soar despite recommendations
At the time of the commission’s final report in 1991, Aboriginal people were 8 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people. A decade after the report was handed down they were 10 times more likely to be imprisoned.
In the 2010s, they were 15 times more likely. In Western Australia, which has the highest Aboriginal imprisonment rate in the country, Aboriginal people are close to 20 times more likely to be jailed than non-Aboriginal people.
Between 2003 and 2013, the Aboriginal rate of incarceration has soared 11 times faster than the non-Aboriginal rate. Prison rates for Aboriginal women have increased by a third between 2002 and 2007, and the number of Aboriginal men by one-fifth , while police custodial rates remain as high as before.
In 2009, the proportion of Aboriginal prisoners had almost doubled in the 20 years since the commission delivered its recommendations.
In 2013, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found Aboriginal deaths in prisons had spiked over the 5 preceding years, despite deaths in custody for non-Aboriginal prisoners remaining stable. It found most deaths were caused by heart conditions and other medical problems, though self-harm remained high.
As if the royal commission never existed, the Northern Territory in December 2014 introduced ‘paperless arrest laws’.
Thought to free police from paperwork, the laws can be triggered by offences including swearing, drinking in public, making too much noise or having an untidy front yard. Previously these infractions merited only small on-the-spot fines. Of the 2,000 people who have been detained via paperless arrests, almost 80% are Aboriginal. In November 2015 the High Court of Australia ruled that paperless arrest laws were valid.
There have been 340 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the end of the royal commission. Most could have been prevented if the [commission’s] recommendations were all implemented.
—Peter Boyle from Australia’s Green Left Weekly newspaper, in 2014
Community impact: “Families are destroyed by this cruelty”
When family members go to prison, families and communities are affected by the loss of parents, role models, childcare and family income.
The Indigenous Social Justice Association is fighting since many years for the rights of families whose loved ones died in police custody.
Their president, Ray Jackson, describes what these families have to go through:
“One cannot begin to explain what death-in-custody families suffer. In fact they suffer twice. firstly for their tragic loss but also by the continued indifference to the law of the land that states that the guilty must be held accountable. For over 450+ families this pain, this trauma eats at them everyday of their lives. Families are destroyed by this cruelty and white power indifference. The horror, the crimes against the families continue unabated.”
Governments fail to follow recommendations
These high prison rates come to no surprise.
A 1996 examination of 96 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the royal commission offered a dismal assessment of progress. It found that every state and territory had claimed implementation of recommendation 161. Yet this continued to be “a serious problem” in numerous deaths.
Equally, every state and territory claimed that the principle of imprisonment as a last resort had been, or was in the process of, being implemented, but this wasn’t entirely so.
A survey of the Australian Indigenous Law Review in 2009 showed that Australia’s states still had only acted on a fraction of the commission’s recommendations.
About 340 Indigenous people have died in prisons and police cells since the 1991 royal commission report. Critics say the lack of progress is ‘mind-blowing’
When using the statistics, it is important that Aboriginal deaths are placed in the context of the number of people in prison. “At the heart of the problem is the over-representation of indigenous persons at every stage of the criminal justice system,” concluded a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2013.
Aboriginal prisoners also die at younger ages from natural causes, reflecting the poorer health conditions and lower life expectancy of Aboriginal people.
Police have a duty of care no matter what [offenders] have done.
—Recruits episode 11 on Australia’s Channel 10
When people of color are disproportionately targeted by police and incarcerated, this leads to disadvantages in other arenas of life, such as health, family life, employment, and political power. Here are four targets for policy change:
Police stops and arrests. Controlling for suspect demeanor, offense severity, presence of witnesses, evidence at the scene, prior record of the suspect, and other factors, minority suspects in one study had a 30% higher chance of being arrested than white suspects. In predominantly White neighborhoods in St. Louis, traffic stops were more likely to include a search in stops of Black drivers than of White drivers, especially by White police officers, controlling for characteristics of the officer, driver, and stop.
Punishment outcomes. A study using data from New York, found that Black and Latino (but not Asian) defendants are disadvantaged compared to Whites when it comes to pretrial detention, plea offers, and sentences of incarceration. This effect is particularly strong for Blacks charged with felony violent crimes and drug crimes.
Disproportionate incarceration of men of color. Of African American young men who dropped out of high school, 37% were incarcerated in 2008, compared to less than 1% of the general population. Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Laband Justice Mapping Center have mapped “million dollar blocks:” neighborhood blocks that have such a high concentration of residents incarcerated that states are spending over a million dollars a year to incarcerate residents from a single block. (On average it costs $28,000 a year to incarcerate someone in state prison).
Racism has no place in Australian society. However, too many people continue to encounter it in their daily lives.
* Around one in five Australians say they have experienced race-hate talk, such as verbal abuse, racial slurs or name-calling.
* More than one in 20 Australians say they have been physically attacked because of their race.
‘All good people must stand solidly against racism. It’s very important to do this publicly.’
Football Federation of Victoria
We invite you to learn from our elders at the BlackCard course and check out the the Racism Stops with Me campaign by the Australian Human Rights Commission for more helpful information. We are pushing for the cultural awareness training to be made compulsory for all serving police, politicians and justice system officials etc. This can be obtained through the
The Australian BlackCard Pty Ltd (BlackCard) is a 100% Aboriginal owned and operated business certified with Supply Nation.
BlackCard provides training and consultancy services to enable people and organisations to work effectively with members of the Aboriginal community.
Working with people, not for people, with the genius of Aboriginal Knowledge.
Connect here: http://www.theblackcard.com.au/blackcard-consultancy/
Australians to counter racism
The National Anti-Racism Strategy aims to build the capacity of individuals, organisations and communities to prevent racism and to respond safely when it occurs.
In the past year we developed tools and educational resources to support individuals and organisations in some of the priority areas identified in the Strategy: education, government service provision and workplaces.
In June 2013 we launched an online anti-racism resource for young people, ‘What You Say Matters’.
The resource was developed with funding from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
It features a hip-hop music video and easily accessible information about racism, how to prevent it from happening and, if it does, how to respond in ways that are safe for them and those around them.
We developed this information in response to the key questions asked about racism by the young people we surveyed:
* What is racism?
* Why are people racist?
* Who experiences racism?
* Where does racism happen?
* Why is racism a problem?
* What can you do?
* What does the law say?
The video features hip-hop artist Brothablack and the students of James Meehan High School in Macquarie Fields, Sydney. The lyrics drew on the issues raised by the young people we surveyed and the scenes in the video were developed in collaboration with the students based on their real-life experiences.
The video has been viewed over 11,000 times on YouTube and received a very positive response. https://youtu.be/WiQq_XAVPLg
Something all Australians must keep in mind:
We stole this land with murder and mayhem … and we have to reconcile the matter someday, either by acknowledging the fact that we’re bloody handed thieves and being proud of it, or giving back what we stole, and not as an act of charity, but of downright humility.
Jeremy Delacy (Xavier Herbert expresses through this character in “Poor Fellow My Country”.
Poor Fellow never lets us forget that our material wealth has come at the cost of Aboriginal Australia’s dispossession.
There are numerous examples where police heavy-hands an incident involving Aboriginal people. Officers going too far are rarely brought to trial and often covered by their colleagues.
NSW State Coroner Mary Jerram was compelled in one of her reports to point out that police “do not have a licence to act recklessly, carelessly or dangerously or with excessive force”. Such behaviour constitutes “an abuse of police powers”.
Collaborating with First Nations communities key step to healthier, longer lives
Speaking an Indigenous language linked to youth wellbeing
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in remote areas who speak an Indigenous language are less likely to experience risk factors associated with poor wellbeing, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The report found that in 2008, almost half (47%) of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (aged 15–24 years) in remote areas spoke an Indigenous language. These young people were less likely to engage in high risk alcohol consumption and illicit substance use, than those who did not speak an Indigenous language. They were also less likely to report being a victim of physical violence.
However, the report also showed that there has been a decline in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth who can speak an Indigenous language. In 2008, 13% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth could speak an Indigenous language, down from 18% in 2002.
Racism Destroyed In One Minute:
Reference: Paper presented at the History of Crime, Policing and Punishment Conference. Written by: Jo Kamira
former Manager of the AFP, ATSI Unit, ACT