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Priority on Aboriginal deaths in custody

Ravina Waldren at a memorial service for Aboriginal people who have died in custody


Priority on Aboriginal deaths in custody

BRISBANE archdiocese’s Murri Ministry and Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) will invite Premier Campbell Newman to meet and consider ways to meet the challenge of rising numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody as well as increasing indigenous incarceration rates.

Ministries co-ordinator Ravina Waldren said the proposed meeting with Mr Newman aimed to discuss recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which delivered its final report to the Federal Government 21 years ago this month.

“Since this report was released, 400 indigenous people have died in custody,” she said.

“Every second person in Aboriginal communities has been impacted by losing a relative in this way.

“I … lost a nephew some years ago … he was being held in a prison hospital at Wacol.

“So, for me and many others, every time an Aboriginal death in custody occurs, old wounds are reopened.”

Ms Waldren said discussions had been held with NATSIEC (the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission) on ways to increase Church involvement on this issue.

“The parishes should be coming together to speak in a united voice to government authorities about the situation,” she said.

“Parishioners could also get involved in practical ways such as donating to a ‘funeral pantry’ to support bereaved indigenous when they meet to mourn their loved ones.”

Ms Waldren and CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt also recently spoke at a meeting on rising indigenous imprisonment rates and on-going deaths in custody.

Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership (CTIPP) representatives attended the meeting.

Indigenous and non-indigenous representatives from the Salvation Army, Baptist, Anglican and Uniting Churches also attended the meeting, which was held at Justice Place, Woolloongabba.

Mr Arndt said deaths in custody were clearly a major concern within the Aboriginal community.

“Looming Federal Government plans for compulsory income management in Logan and Rockhampton also came up for discussion,” he said.

“Other issues were also discussed from well known Aboriginal community members such as the ‘Tent Embassy Movement’ event in Musgrave Park and the recent happenings down in Logan and further afield.

“These included the death of a young girl in foster care who died after a vehicle which she was driving hit a tree earlier this month at Ipswich.

“The 13-year-old girl’s mother was in jail and her father had only been released a week or so before the incident.”

Mr Arndt said Premier Newman would be contacted soon to see if a meeting on indigenous deaths in custody was possible.

“However, we are currently seeking a suitable meeting date from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples who will also be involved,” he said.


Written by: Paul Dobbyn

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