Deaths in Custody rally marks 30 years since Royal Commission

This Saturday 10 April is a National Day of Action against black deaths in custody.

Indigenous hand grips jail bar with backdrop of Aboriginal flagWHEN: Saturday 10 April at 1pm

WHERE: Sydney Town Hall

WHAT: Protest and March

It marks 30 years since the release of Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It also showcases the lack of progress made in this space.

This report outlined fundamental changes necessary to stop the epidemic of deaths in custody. Central principles were the need for Aboriginal self-determination and stopping the obscene numbers of Aboriginal people from being taken into custody.
There has been no implementation of these core recommendations of the Royal Commission. Thirty years on and the situation is worse than ever.
There have been more than 440 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the release of the report. In 1991, an average 2140 Indigenous people were in prison on any given night. In 2020, these numbers exploded to more than 13,000 people. This is the highest rate of incarceration of any group of people on the planet.
The huge Black Lives Matter rallies in 2020 forced the NSW government to hold a Parliamentary inquiry into deaths in custody and mass incarceration. We expect the release of the report from this inquiry in April.

Five deaths in five weeks

Earlier this week the Western Australia Government announced that another Indigenous person had died whilst in custody.

A 45-year-old Aboriginal man passed away after his transfer to Fiona Stanley Hospital from Perth’s Casuarina Prison.

The WA Department of Justice released a statement addressing the death on Sunday.

“The 45-year-old Indigenous man died yesterday evening at Fiona Stanley Hospital. His next of kin have been notified,” the statement said.

“The prisoner had been admitted to the hospital on Friday, 2 April. He underwent a medical procedure yesterday and had been placed in intensive care.

“In accordance with all deaths in custody, WA Police will prepare a report for a Coronial inquiry.”

In previous weeks we heard of four other Indigenous deaths in custody. Two New South Wales deaths, a death in Ravenhall Prison in Victoria and a death following a police pursuit in Broken Hill.

Indigenous Parliamentary figures address the deaths in custody issue

Victoria Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe expressed outrage at the lack of progress.

“This is the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country’s criminal legal system since the start of March,” Ms Thorpe said.

“The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!

“I’ll be on the streets on April 10 for the Stop Black Deaths in Custody protest — see you there.”

Labor Senator Pat Dodson addressed the rates of Aboriginal deaths in custody during Senate Estimates. In a press conference with fellow Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy afterwards, Senator Dodson warned the Government of slipping towards another death in custody.

“We know that since the Royal Commission there’s almost 500 people who’ve died in custody, not all from mistreatment by any means. But we just don’t know, we don’t understand. We know some from health, we know some from police chases, we know that some are from other sorts of causes,” said the Senator.

“But we’ve got to the chronic stage now where, instead of learning from the Royal Commission and its recommendations 30 years ago, we’re standing on the brink potentially of another Royal Commission to inquire into the same sorts of things, the underlying issues that give rise to custodies and the reasons for this.”

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