The coronial inquest into the death in custody of young Yamatji woman Ms Dhu concluded on Friday. West Australian Coroner Ros Fogliani found that antibiotics could have saved the young woman’s life, that police behaviour towards her was “unprofessional and inhumane,” and that she received “appalling treatment” that is “profoundly disturbing to witness.” The coroner also ordered that the CCTV footage from the final days of Ms Dhu’s life be released. This footage was taken between the 2nd and the 4th of August, 2014, at both the police lock-up and the Hedland Health Campus, and shows Ms Dhu’s “catastrophic decline” in health, as well as her treatment by police and hospital staff.
The footage is now available through several media outlets. It is incredibly distressing to watch. What it shows is exactly what her family have said all along that it shows, which is a beautiful young woman being treated with extraordinary callousness and brutality as her health deteriorates. The final moments of the CCTV, taken as she arrived at Hedland Health Campus for the third time has been redacted. This was at the request of her father, and it is indeed possible that in those moments of the footage she is no longer alive. However, activists have pointed out that (if it can be possible) that section of the footage is even more damning than the rest – as it shows Ms Dhu being propped up in a wheelchair while she is certainly unconscious and critically ill and may possibly even be deceased.
Despite the extraordinary abuses that the footage illustrates, despite the fact that she herself admitted that police behaviour was appalling and inhumane and that Ms Dhu’s life could have been saved with the most simple medical care, the coroner failed to recommend that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider criminal charges against those implicated in her death. In fact, although 21 officers were investigated over the death not one lost their job, even more outrageously, two have subsequently been promoted. Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said that he “accepted” that his officers “failed Ms Dhu in this regard,” – however he does not plan to take any further action against the officers responsible.
Anyone who has viewed the footage, however, must be deeply concerned by the prospect of the people it shows treating Ms Dhu with such breathtaking cruelty being put in positions of power over more defenceless people. Aboriginal people in Western Australia are already sharing the video and encouraging friends and family members to memorise the faces of the officers and medical staff involved in the hope that such knowledge might one day save their life. These officers displayed a dangerous level of racism that cost Ms Dhu her future. How can they be trusted with other lives?
ISJA Melbourne joins with Ms Dhu’s family, with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, with the Redfern Aboriginal Women’s Alliance, with First Nations Liberation and Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, with the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee of Western Australia and with countless other activists across Australia in calling for criminal prosecutions to be brought against those responsible for this tragic death. We have seen the footage. The violence, the gross negligence is there for all to see. As Ms Dhu’s grandmother Carol said after the coroner’s verdict, “We still want justice.”
Please join our virtual event for justice for Ms Dhu here.
National Day of Action – 25 Year Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
This Friday 15th of April marks 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It has also been named a National Day Of Emergency because deaths in custody are in fact on the rise in Australia, and actions are planned all over the country
ISJA Melbourne is planning a peak-hour action in the CBD on that day. It will be a coordinated surprise action, and we need as many people involved as possible. If you can be in the CBD at 4.30 pm then please get in touch with us via the contact form and we will give you the details.
By way of background, we held a stall at BSD in 2014, after being invited to participate by a committee member who was keen to inject an activist element into the day. We were delighted to take up the opportunity and, as the BSD Committee knows, we campaigned vigorously in support of Justice for TJ Hickey in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of his death.
The email said: “ Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in response.
We have discussed the possibility of Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne having a stall at the 2015 Belgrave Survival Day and have come to the conclusion that there are other events to which your stall would be more suited.
We received a significant amount of feedback at the 2014 Survival Day from both indigenous and non indigenous attendees that they felt the approach of the ISJA-Melb group and particularly Alison’s speech was not conducive to the harmonious spirit of reconciliation which Belgrave Survival Day aims to nurture.
We recognise the devastating injustices that indigenous people face and commend you on your tireless work to bring about equality. May you continue to do so skillfully and effectively.
Thank you for your understanding.
The Belgrave Survival Day Committee.”
We make the following points in response to this email: (more…)
The Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne and First Nations Liberation organised the Melbourne action to demand Justice for Ms Dhu. It was part of a National Day of Action, initiated by the family, on 23 October. Rallies took place in Geraldton, South Headland, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
Ezekiel Ox, founder of Musician Against Police Violence, performed his song P.I.G. Spells Police Man! at the Melbourne Justice for Ms Dhu Rally
ISJA in action at Belgrave Survival Day January 26 2014: Alison Thorne fires up the crowd to demand justice for TJ Hickey.