News //

Activists call for independent investigations into Indigenous deaths in custody

Speakers condemned police for lack of transparency and accountability.

Protesters gathered at the Domain. Photography: Brianna Bullivant Protesters gathered at the Domain. Photography: Brianna Bullivant

Approximately 150 people gathered today at Djarrbarrgalli (Sydney Domain) in solidarity with the families of those First Nations people who have died in custody.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) was published in 1991, 440 more First Nations people have died in custody. Only a handful of the report’s recommendations have been acted upon.

The key demand of the protest was that an independent body be established to investigate the deaths of First Nations people in custody, one of the recommendations of the RCIADIC. 

The lunchtime protest began with a Welcome To Country by Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovener, followed by speeches from Lizzie Jarrett and Leetona Dungay, relatives of David Dungay Jr. who died in police custody in 2015. 

Other speakers included Keenan Mundine of Deadly Connections, Peta MacGillivray of the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) and NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge.

Dungay brought attention to the fact that no officers have been convicted in relation to the death of her son, nor any of the other 439 deaths. She argued that there was a lack of transparency within the police system, as officers also serve as investigators when a death occurs in custody. 

“When will the government give me and my family peace? When will the government give me and my family justice?” she asked the crowd.

Shoebridge also emphasised the ”need to stop police investigating themselves.” He noted how the inquiry “can’t just be about recommendations. This inquiry needs to be about changing the law, empowering First Nations peoples and keeping First Nations peoples out of jail.”

Despite heavy police presence — approximately 40 riot police, mounted units, bicycles, motorbikes and regular officers — there was minimal interaction with the crowd. 

Several protesters told Honi that police officers were seen to be laughing and joking during the speeches. “It is a bad look for NSW Police and indicative of a huge lack of respect,” one protester said. 

Jarrett thanked the audience for their appearance, emphasising the need for continued support from the community. “You don’t get to come out one time and think it’s going to be changed, think it’s going to be fixed. You need to show up every time, every place we call out for you.” 

She also urged protesters to attend the upcoming climate rally, emphasising the relationship between land and life. “Without the land we have no life, so we can’t stand here and say ‘Black Lives Matter’ if black land doesn’t matter.” 

The Rally for Climate Jobs and Justice is on Saturday 12th December 12pm at Town Hall.