Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter News Alerts : Aboriginal deaths in custody with commentary from Pat Turner , Helen Milroy , Marcia Langton , @KenWyattMP @David_Speers @GayaaDhuwi @pat_dudgeon @SenatorDodson

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black lives Matter.

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss.

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

Click here for advice

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

Last week, VACCHO supported a harm minimisation approach to the peaceful protests. We recognised that large crowds were likely to congregate in Melbourne’s CBD regardless of any discouragement.  We wanted to ensure those deciding to attend, could do this as safely as possible.

Our messaging to those who decided to go to the rally was loud and clear; say home if unwell or vulnerable, have chronic conditions, or care for anyone who does; be sensible and wear face masks, bring sanitisers and wash your hands; and maintain safe distance of 1.5 meters apart.

Today, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, announced that a non-Aboriginal man in his thirties who attended the BLM rally held in Melbourne, has tested positive to COVID-19. Victoria reported another 7 cases overnight. These 7 cases are not linked or traced back to the rally.

Brett Sutton also advised that this man, who wore a mask at the rally, showed no symptoms Saturday. Mr Sutton reaffirmed that he was diagnosed 24 hours following the rally, meaning it was ‘highly unlikely’ that he caught the virus there.

Normally people show symptoms 4-6 days after being exposed to the virus. Currently, 179 of the 1,699 cases of COVID-19 are linked to cases of community transmission in Victoria which are unable to be traced back to a known source.

Read full Press Release HERE

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

Last weekend, Black Lives Matter protests brought thousands on to the streets campaigning for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Many signs at rallies referred to the 432 deaths that are known to have happened since the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody delivered its final report in 1991.

That figure is based on Guardian Australia’s findings from a two-year long project to monitor Aboriginal deaths in custody, Deaths Inside.

We updated the database and published new results on Saturday. We found the number had risen to 434.

But by Saturday morning even that number was already out of date. Just before marches began in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and towns around the country, the department of corrective services in Western Australia confirmed that a 40-year-old Aboriginal man had died in custody at Acacia prison, near Perth.

Read full article HERE

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system

Pat Turner, for decades a strong Aboriginal voice, is the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together about 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In this role she is part of the negotiations for a new agreement on Closing the Gap targets.

Unlike the original Rudd government targets, the refreshed Closing the Gap agreement, soon to be finalised, will set out targets for progress on justice and housing.

But the issue is, how much progress should be the aim?

Read this Pat Turner interview HERE

“We want to push the percentages of achievement much higher, but we are in a consensus decision-making process with governments … what the targets will reflect is what the governments themselves are prepared to commit to,” Turner says.

The Australian Black Lives Matter marches have focused attention on the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people, often for trivial matters.

In this podcast Turner canvasses both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

She points to “huge issues with drug and alcohol abuse”, with inadequate resourcing to deal with these problems.

She urges reform for sentencing arrangements for those charged with minor offences, criticising a system which imprisons people who cannot pay fines, or post bail. “It would be less expensive overall for the jurisdictions, and it would more beneficial to the community [if those people weren’t in prison]”. And she identifies the “the over-incarceration of women [as] a major concern.”

Among the changes needed, she says, is better training of police.

“Now I’m not saying that all the police behave badly – we have got outstanding examples of how the police work with our communities.” But “we just can’t wait for ad hoc ‘good guys’ to come out of the system and engage properly – we need wholesale reform of the police departments.”

Listen Here

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

” The Federal  Government is progressing with the Closing the Gap refresh in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, and while we’re still in final negotiations, it has been agreed that there will be justice targets contained within that agreement that focus on incarceration rates.

What’s important is that this Agreement has been developed in Partnership with Indigenous Australians and so we’re all working towards better outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I will keep on working to empower Indigenous Australians – improve health, education and employment outcomes – and reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in custody.

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release:

Every death in custody is a tragedy.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution and no single answer.

Through all the work I do as Minister for Indigenous Australian we’re working to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates – these include health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

If we want to reduce the number of deaths in custody we need to look very closely at what’s happening here in Australia – the factors contributing to incarceration rates and the way in which our systems are handling these incidents – this requires a co-operative approach between government and with communities, particularly when States and Territories hold the policies and levers relating to policing and justice matters.

The relationship between Indigenous Australians and the police, both the good and the bad, in respective jurisdictions must also be examined.

The Morrison Government, through the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), is playing a key role in ensuring that there are additional protections in place for individuals when they are taken into custody through the Custody Notification System (CNS).

But we also need to remember that reducing the number of Indigenous people in contact with the justice system, through addressing the underlying factors that lead to offending, is just as key in addressing the number of deaths in custody.

So we should be looking at these things every day – that’s why we fund a range of activities to complement State and Territories to improve justice and community safety outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

It takes more than money – it takes commitment – it takes listening and understanding, and it takes us working together.

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomed today’s reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Noting that Indigenous Australians are almost ten times proportionally overrepresented in prison, Professor Tom Calma AO, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Patron, said:

The 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was a response to too many Indigenous Australians being in jail, and dying in jail and in police custody. That this crisis is worse, not better, in 2020 is a scandal.

The legacies of colonisation: structural racism, poverty and social exclusion are at the root of the high rates of imprisonment we suffer. All these must be addressed along with policing and sentencing reform as set out in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2018 Pathways to Justice Report.

But in the shorter term, we must also address the pathways to prison that the resulting untreated trauma, mental health and alcohol and drug problems create for our people.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Chair Professor Helen Milroy continued:

We know that high rates of trauma, mental health issues and alcohol use are reported in Indigenous prisoners at the time of their offending, but also that – for many – prison is the first time they get any kind of mental health or other support. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia calls on Australian governments to work together with us to develop a comprehensive mental health focused, justice reinvestment based strategic response to reducing Indigenous imprisonment rates.

This would feature integrated communitybased mental health, AOD and diversionary programs, continuing mental health support in prison, and – upon release – continuity of care to prevent recidivism and to support the reintegration of our people back into our families and communities.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, National Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Indigenous Suicide Prevention and Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia director, added:

Black lives do matter. And in addition to other causes of death in custody, we know that both the stress of pending court cases and the challenges of post-release life contributes to suicides among us, something often forgotten by policy makers. It is critical that diversionary programs and Indigenous prisoner mental health support are also considered within integrated approaches to suicide prevention among us.

Professor Calma closed by stating:

Over a decade ago as Social Justice Commissioner, I called for the development of Closing the Gap targets to reduce our incarceration rates, and for a justice reinvestment approach to doing so.

I repeat these calls today. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia aims to implement the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration’s Vision of Indigenous leadership delivering the best possible mental health system and standard of mental health to Indigenous Australians.

The organisation stands ready to lead and partner with stakeholders and Australian governments to develop a comprehensive mental health based strategic response to help close the imprisonment rate gap.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black Lives Matter

Download Senate debate Black lives Matter

Black lives matter debate in Senate

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss

Download Report HERE

Hearing Loss

Read previous other report HERE 

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery

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