Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rally for justice for Miss Dhu

A crowd of 50-80 people rallied on the steps of the Western Australian Parliament house on Tuesday February 25 to demand justice for the family of Miss Dhu. Dhu was a 22 year old Aboriginal woman who died in Police custody on August 4 last year. She was imprisoned in Port Headland for non-payment of fines.

The protest - which was organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA (DICWA) - demanded that the Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett honour his pledge made to the Dhu Family made at a previous rally in October. Barnett said that his government would do everything possible to reduce Aboriginal numbers in prison. He also promised a coronial inquest into her death. To this day, the Barnett government has not delivered on this pledge.

After chanting “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now”, the crowd was addressed by the grandmother of Miss Dhu, Aunty Caroll who said that her family and other families of people who have died in Police Custody need answers from the government. She also asked “We are considered the First Nations People, Where is the respect for the First Nation’s People?”

A petition calling on the Coronial Officer to open the inquest into Miss Dhu’s death, was presented to Green’s MLC Robin Chapple on behalf of her family to be tabled in Parliament. Chapple called upon the government to focus on Justice Re-investment and building communities as opposed to its draconian “Law and Order” agenda. This agenda leads to more Aboriginal people being locked up for offences such as unpaid fines, as happened to Dhu. He said that the Government’s “Law and Order” agenda fails to take into account that it is Aboriginal people who bear the brunt of these policies.

This point was backed up by Shadow minister for corrective services, Paul Papalia, who told the crowd that in ALP report it was found that one third of women in Western Australia’s prisons are there because they are unable to pay fines and two thirds of those were Aboriginal. He called on the government to stop locking up people for being unable to pay fines and find alternatives such as community service.

Indigenous activist Vanessa Colbung and the Uncle of Miss Dhu, Sean Harris, who have been campaigning on behalf of the Dhu family, also spoke. Harris called on the State to implement the reconditions made by the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

This article by Alex Salmon was written for Green Left Weekly #1044. Photos and videos from Deaths in Custody Watch Committee.