This Wednesday, more than 12 families and our supporters will march from Sydney Town Hall to NSW Parliament house at 12:30pm to protest the murders of our loved ones and demand action from the NSW Justice Department. We are fighting a battle that has been waged since Invasion in 1788.
More recently, in 1981, aspiring footy star and Redfern All Black Eddie Murray returned home to the NSW regional town of Wee Waa, retiring to the country to heal from a footy injury he suffered on the ovals of Sydney. Within hours of Eddie’s arrival, he was set upon by local police and taken to Wee Waa lockup. Eddie’s parents, Arthur and Leila Murray would later be called to the cop station because Eddie had, according to Wee Waa police, committed suicide.
Eddie's death, or should I say his murder, was and is one the most significant cases of black deaths in custody in our movement's history, not only because it was the spark that inspired a movement for justice, but because Eddie’s case embodies all the hallmarks of an injustice system that perpetrates violence on the Aboriginal community, then vehemently covers its tracks to evade all accountability.
Not much has changed since the struggle of the 1980s. Granted, today one of our people is murdered by police every 28 days. Back then it was one murder every 11 days – but in the context of living in the “lucky country” that espouses its “love” and “appreciation” for its Aboriginal heritage and a “commitment to social justice” (laughable considering what they do to refugees and Muslims), one death is one too many. The fact that nearly every politically inclined Koori I know can recite key stats of the 1991 Royal Commission tells you that this issue hasn’t gone away, and we are fed up.
Thirty-eight years on from Eddie’s murder, and we are hitting the streets again, for the same demands – in the face of a government and state bureaucracy indifferent to our plight. We will hear from the family of David Dungay Jnr, a 26-year-old Kempsey man who was murdered in his Long Bay Prison cell in 2015. David died after being subdued and then injected with midazolam – a sedative known to bring its victims to the brink of death. You might be asking, why on earth would they do such a thing? Because a Black man asserted his right to eat his Tim-Tams in his cell.
We will also hear from my family, the Walker-Craigs, and the family of Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup. The trio, murdered in my hometown of Bowraville in the early 1990s, are more commonly known as the Bowraville 3 and the campaign for #JusticeForBowraville. These children’s murder cases have gone without justice for nearly three decades. Like the case of Lewis “Buddy” Kelly Jnr (whose family we will also hear from), the NSW police service completely bungled the initial investigations – and actively undermined the case for justice with their racial bias. Just to give you an idea of what this looked like – in the case of my first cousin Colleen Walker-Craig, when she was reported missing by my Aunt, the police questioned whether my Aunt Muriel was even Colleen’s mother given Colleen's fair complexion. They would go on to prophesise that Colleen, like Evelyn, had merely “gone walkabout” – Evelyn was four years old when she went missing.
These cases are just a few of the many we will be fighting for.
We know the struggle waged by our elders – the leaders of the Black Power movement – won significant gains for Aboriginal people in this country. They fought tooth and nail and put their entire bodies and livelihood on the line in the pursuit of land rights and ultimately political, economic and social independence. But true to its racist roots, the Australian government has swung the pendulum completely in the wrong direction. This backflip wasn’t gradual – it happened immediately after the pressure from our militant movement of the 1970s and 1980s subsided. The Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody released 339 recommendations to deal with police racism and violence towards our people – it's 2019 and less than three of those recommendations have been implemented.
The struggle for Black rights and equality rages on today because the logic of racist policing has not been smashed – no amount of police cultural training and “community engagement” can untangle the web of oppression and brutality afforded to our community at the hands of the cops.
It’s going to take our people hitting the streets in our thousands, garnering solidarity from our supporters, to win even the most basic rights like equal treatment in the eyes of the law. Next Wednesday we hope to lay the basis for such a fight, and we need you to stand with us.
Please join us on Wednesday at Sydney Town Hall at 12:30pm – join us in this fight for justice.
First published at https://indigenousx.com.au. Gavin Stanbrook is an Aboriginal socialist activist and a family member of Colleen Walker-Craig.