NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of @RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health “ Differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia.”

” I can recount ‘hundreds’ of similar experiences and that ‘every Aboriginal person’ would have comparable stories – Aboriginal ethnicity is the strongest predictor of Discharge Against Medical Advice ( DAMA  )and occurs at a rate eight times that of the non-Indigenous population.

I am trying to encourage health services to take more responsibility by getting them to ‘look at it in a different way’, as i believe it is incumbent upon health professionals, including GPs, to lead the fight against racism.

[I want them] to think what is so toxic about this environment … [where] they know if they walk out that front door they could die and they’d rather do that than stay in here.

Everyone in the health system should be advocating for their patients, but GPs are perfectly placed to do that.

Our patients trust us more than any other doctor that they see and they have an intimate, ongoing relationship with us that they don’t necessarily have with any other health professional.

Creating a safe environment for our patients is exactly our responsibility … it’s just about showing an extra level of care for patients and ensuring that they’re comfortable in order to help make a wider change.’

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring. Speaking to GPnews

Download the NACCHO RACGP National Guide 

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

The 12th Closing the Gap report, released in February this year, laid bare the lack of progress Australia continues to make with regard to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and employment outcomes.

Child mortality is twice that of non-Indigenous children, the life expectancy gap remains at about eight years (and equivalent to developing countries like Palestine and Guatemala), and there is a burden of disease 2.3 times greater than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

According to the Coalition of Peaks, which this week released what it called a ground-breaking report into the development of a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a change in approach is required to ‘truly close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians’.

It advocates for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement across the board, and calls for mainstream service delivery – including the health sector – to be reformed to address systemic racism, promote cultural safety, and to be held ‘much more accountable’.

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP that differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia, as is the subsequent trauma it inevitably produces.

View previous NACCHO TV Interview with Associate Professor Peter O’Mara

 

One of the greatest sources of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to Associate Professor O’Mara, is their interaction with police and the criminal justice system.

‘The system is against us in so many ways,’ he said.

‘I went up to a town in the Northern Territory many years ago and when I got to the community a young fella had just been taken across to Darwin where he was spending two weeks in incarceration [due to mandatory sentencing laws].

‘What had happened is, he and his mates were playing cricket on the street … and this young fella had the bat, hit a big shot, and smashed a streetlight.

‘Someone has complained and said, “I’m calling the cops”. He waited and did the right thing, he said, “Look, I’m really sorry, it was an accident, we were playing cricket. I’m sure my parents will try and help pay for the light”, but he got locked up for two weeks.

‘Just for something silly like that – they were playing cricket on a dead-end street in Australia.’

Associate Professor O’Mara says instances like that only tell part of the story.

‘[For example], there’s the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to suffer hearing disorders – often as a result of things like chronic suppurative otitis media – and the evidence is there to say that when you have a hearing disorder, you’re more likely to be incarcerated,’ he said.

‘Some of the things that we do as GPs, like working on that trying to improve ear health for children, and particularly for Aboriginal children, can have a direct impact.’

Dr Penny Abbott, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Custodial Health network, said GPs are at the frontline for people who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

‘The reasons people end up in prison usually include health issues, such as mental health or substance-related problems, and social problems like homelessness and lack of community-based support networks,’ she told newsGP.

‘Addressing these issues before people get to the point of being sent to prison can happen at a primary care level where we are good at treating the whole person in their context.’

Dr Abbott also said once a person is released from prison it is a ‘perfect time’ to consider if an Aboriginal health check, mental health plan, or chronic disease management plan is urgently needed.

‘[GPs] can make a real difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait patients by being aware of the kinds of health, social and system issues that their patient comes up against when leaving prison – a precarious time where people are at high risk of relapse to drug use, death, hospitalisation, and returning to prison,’ she said.

‘For example, GPs can ensure continuity of healthcare started in prison, manage health issues that weren’t addressed in prison, and look afresh at issues that may be cropping up post-release. Substance-use disorders are of course a big issue to be on top of.’

Aside from the incarcerated person, Associate Professor O’Mara said it is also important to be aware of the vicarious trauma that families can suffer, especially if the family member is assaulted while imprisoned, or worse, dies in custody.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died at a lower rate than non-Indigenous prisoners – although there are no reliable statistics that can be used to calculate death rates in police custody.

A key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ‘do not die at a greater rate than non-Aboriginal people in custody’, but rather ‘what is overwhelmingly different is the rate at which Aboriginal people come into custody, compared with the rate of the general community’.

Yet, in the subsequent years, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons has nearly doubled from 14% to 27%. As a result, 437 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in the past 29 years, as opposed to 99 in the 10-year period investigated by the royal commission.

The high incarceration rate means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous Australians, and thus more likely to die there as well.

Dr Abbott said deaths in custody are a great burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘We need to remain vigilant and committed to avoiding people being sent to prison in the first place, as well as providing quality care in prison and after release,’ she said.

‘We also need to continually reflect on the root causes of deaths in custody and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the social determinants of poor health and inequities, and the systemic racism that our patients continue to experience.

‘There are many things which will help, such as more programs to divert young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, and a larger workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and prison health.’

But, as pointed out in the Coalition of Peaks report, institutionalised racism is not restricted to the justice system, and remains a common experience among health professionals and within the health system as well.

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring.

‘This is a great example, unfortunately, of what happens to our people,’ he said.

‘I’ve seen a gentleman in the clinic in the Aboriginal Medical Service who had chest pain, and I thought that he was having a heart attack – a myocardial infarction. So I started treating him for that and called the ambulance, which took him to a local hospital that … within the health services is known to be blatantly racist.

‘This gentleman goes into the emergency department. He’s quite happy to be there and he’s thankful that he’s receiving the treatment, but some things are said in that environment that are so toxic to him that he decides to pull the ECG leads off, take the IV lines out and walk out the front door.

‘That happens all too commonly in this setting and then at that point, the doctors and nurses, the health professionals will wash their hands of it because we say, “We told them not to go, they chose to go, they signed this [DAMA form]”.’

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter : #Racism is killing us: Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson @LowitjaInstitut and Marching for truth and justice CEO Dr Janine Mohamed,

“ The Black Lives Matters protests, here in Australia and across the world, are sounding cries of anguish and anger about the unrelenting impact of racism on our lives.

Reflecting on this, I was struck by an important comment from leading Aboriginal psychologist and academic Professor Pat Dudgeon.

There are very few Aboriginal people who wouldn’t have suffered racism, going on to talk about a growing body of evidence showing that racism is detrimental to the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson, Lowitja Institute : See Part 1 below

” Given that this is an international gathering I wanted to just briefly set the Australian context and then talk about similarities. In Australia, Indigenous people make up just three per cent of the Australian population.

In my opinion we have only begun to publicly name and discuss racism in the 2010’s as a national issue. Concepts of critical race theory such as power, fragility, privilege, dominant culture and systemic racism are off the table and these sorts of discussions are met with resistance and cognitive dissonance.

But we have experienced the brunt of police brutality, coroners’ reports and overincarceration – in fact, our Aboriginal children make up 100 percent of those in juvenile justice in the Northern Territory.

And we experience the brunt of deaths in custody – since colonisation began, just over 200 years ago. And it’s not just been about police brutality.

It’s also about failure of police to act, including when our children have gone missing, as we saw with the deaths of three Aboriginal children in the small town of Bowraville in the 1990s, for their families who waited decades for justice.

We know this is the experience of many Indigenous peoples and People of Colour worldwide ”

Narrunga Kaurna woman, Dr Janine Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer at the Lowitja Institute, who urged civil society, including powerful sectors like the health and medical fields, to engage with historical and contemporary truth telling and the work of anti-racism.

Originally published in Croakey See Part 2 below in full

Part 1 : Racism is killing us: Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson :

See previous NACCHO Pat Anderson post read approx 100,000 times online

Pat Dudgeon’s  words echo strongly in the work of the Lowitja Institute, the national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

Our work shows us that racism is widespread and it makes us suffer. It makes us sick.

We saw its scope and impact in key research that we funded many years ago, which documented very high levels of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians, and high levels of distress because of it.

Almost every person (97 per cent) of the 755 surveyed in 2011 in four Victorian communities had experienced at least one racist incident in the previous 12 months, with more than 70 per cent experiencing eight or more incidents a year.

Some of it included being called racist names, teased or stereotyped (92 per cent), being sworn at, verbally abused or subjected to offensive gestures because of their race (84 per cent), or being spat at, hit or threatened because of their race (67 per cent). More than half (54 per cent) reported having their property vandalised because of race.

This is not just abhorrent and an infringement of our rights. This causes life-long harm.

Studies here and from around the world tell us that racism is associated with causing psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse. Prolonged, it can have significant physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Worryingly, our study showed that 40 per cent of participants indicated that they had experienced racism within the justice system and 30 per cent within health care systems.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will not seek out health care and will not work in health services if we do not feel culturally safe.

And we know from the families who took their heartbreak to the streets the last two weekends that racism in the justice system can be brutal and fatal.

Have things changed since the Lowitja Institute commissioned that landmark research?

Not according to new ANU research which showed that three out of four Australians who tested for unconscious bias hold a “negative implicit or unconscious bias against Indigenous Australians”.

And not according to the everyday experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.

Yet instead of taking urgent action, our government criticises us for our protests. Instead of working to address historic injustice, our Prime Minister diminished it, declaring we should not be “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia” and that “there was no slavery in Australia”. How can the leader of our country not know our history?

So, as the cries of #BlackLivesMatter continue to ring out across the globe, where do we go from here in Australia?

We need to acknowledge that racism is deeply entrenched in Australia and is a public health emergency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

That terrible reality is there to be read clearly in the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, which identifies racism as a key driver of ill-health.

It is there to be read in the Uluru Statement to the Heart. In the critiques of the Closing the Gap strategy.

It is in the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which has at their heart, as Professor Megan Davis said last week, the need to address “the structural powerlessness that renders Indigenous voices silent” in our nation.

It is time to end that silence. And it is time for governments to hear us.

Part 2 :  Marching for truth and justice

Last weekend, we acknowledged that shared pain, and once more we as Indigenous Peoples led the call for justice in Australia.

When we saw the treatment of George – we connected with those images and trauma on many levels and wanted to show solidarity and shared lived experience.

I am proud that tens of thousands of Australians joined #BlackLivesMatter marches around the country. Despite the Prime Minister and public health officials warning people not to attend. Despite the threat of fines and arrests. Despite an effort to ban the Sydney protest.

My husband, and my family joined the marches as did many other Indigenous Peoples and community members.

As we marched, I thought of the legacy of our patient ancestors, and of the 437 Indigenous people who have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was held in the early 1990s. No one has ever been charged.

I thought of the good police officers and wondered if our stance would privilege their voices?

I thought of the many different peoples of colour who come to our shores and are surprised by the ‘casual ‘racism they experience.

I thought also of the nexus between punitive health and justice systems, and the stories of Ms DhuMs Naomi WilliamsMs Tanya Day and David Dungay Junior who died painful and /or violent and preventable deaths.

So many of our people have been hurt and harmed by traumatising systems. Yet it took the death of an African American man in the US to bring so many non-Indigenous Australians out on to the streets.

And even when we called out our heartbreak on the weekend, walking past big department stores in Melbourne, we heard them advising customers over their Public Announcement systems – “they had locked the front doors – for our safety”.

I wondered if this was a common occurrence for marches in Victoria or just black justice marches?

Systemic racism

They were reinforcing the racist profiling and stereotypes that we are violent. Placing the problem with us – rather than calling for action on police and state violence.

It was the same from much of the mainstream media – reflecting the systemic racism within all mainstream systems.

Journalists were putting the hard questions to Indigenous people (asking individuals to speak on behalf of our whole community) about why we were marching. Not putting the hard questions to governments about their failures.

And the day after the march, a prominent TV program held a panel of all-white journalists discussing Black Lives Matter! We have so many Indigenous journalists who are challenging the mainstream narratives.

But the media of course reflects the broader system.

By and large our governments have not responded to #BlackLivesMatter as they should have.

They have denied it’s an Australian issue, trivialised, undermined, vilified, and made #BlackLivesMatter the problem. Even one of our leading health officials told us – weaponised – #AllLivesMatter.

Of course, all lives would matter if Black lives did.

Truth telling matters

Our Prime Minister today said Black Lives Matter protesters should be charged if they attend further marches. He also said, “there was no slavery in Australia”.

As some of our leading academics politely put it, this statement is “at odds with the historical record!”

Our children were removed from families and put to service as domestic labour. Aboriginal pastoral workers were bought and sold in chains. Thousands of Aboriginal families were unable to benefit from economic equity with their wages being withheld well into the 70s and still to this day have not been compensated for their loss.

In some communities people were paid via rations of the worst nutritional kind – feeding Aboriginal people white flour, tobacco, refined sugar and alcohol. This resulted in third world health status in a first world county – disability, chronic illness and physical distress.

Tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders brought to Australia and enslaved to work in sugar plantations – what we call “blackbirding”.

In conclusion, international solidarity is key. And we must always start with self-examination and opportunities to be anti-racists, then we can focus on the structures we work within and influence.

I would like to see the Atlantic Fellowship issue a strong statement about historical and contemporary truth telling, and long term planned action with specific calls to governments, media, powerful sectors like the health and medical sector, businesses, universities and wider civil society.

Thank you for your bravery and solidarity brothers and sisters.

  • Dr Janine Mohamed is CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Chair of Croakey Health Media

PostScript: Prime Minister Scott Morrison today apologised for his incorrect comments on slavery.

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism #VicVotes @VACCHO_org Survey finds 86 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria have personally experienced racism in a mainstream health setting

“Racism hinders people from actually getting good medical care, getting good health care accessing services,

The results highlight the need for government to appoint an independent health commissioner and address cultural awareness at all levels of the health system.

“There are avenues that can be taken to overcome these issues and we are here to urge they be adopted by whichever party wins government at the Victorian election later this month,

Acting CEO for VACCHO, Trevor Pearce, says incidents of racism within the mainstream health system often lead to Indigenous Australians seeking treatment much later than non-Indigenous people or avoiding it all together, contributing to the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes.

“On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.”

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute,  (and a former chair of NACCHO) see her opinion article below link ”

This article has been read over 22,000 times in past 4 years 

Read HERE 

 

Researchers have polled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians about their experiences of racism at hospitals and GP clinics.

The online survey, with 120 respondents, found high levels of everyday racism in the health sector.

FROM NITV

Of those polled, 88 per cent reported incidences of racism from nurses, and 74 per cent had experienced racism when dealing with GPs.

The survey was conducted by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and designed in partnership with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) students.

The results revealed 86 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria have personally experienced racism in a mainstream health setting at least once, while 54 per cent said they experienced racism in hospitals every time they attended.

The survey responses showed fewer incidents of racism when interacting with dentists (48 per cent) and the ambulance service (46 per cent).

Mr Pearce attributed the lower figures to the cultural competency work VACCHO has done with Dental Health Services Victoria and Ambulance Victoria, and said it showed how working with the Aboriginal community could achieve beneficial results for everybody involved.

“This is going to require Aboriginal people not just being heard, but actions being taken on what we say. We know what is best for us, we have the answers. Pay attention to us and act accordingly,” he said.

Victoria’s health minister Jill Hennessy says the government is taking the issue seriously.

“We are ensuring our services are more responsive to the needs of Indigenous Australians, so they can get the high quality and safe care they need, when they need it – free from discrimination,” she said in a statement.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism Debate #itstopswithme : Download @AusHumanRights Report, Anti-Racism in 2018 and Beyond : “Aboriginal people experience racism in systemic and institutional ways “

“The causes of racism are multiple. It can be caused not just by ignorance but also by arrogance; it can be caused by malice as well as by lazy assumptions.

While is some cases, the causes lay in attitudes and behaviour, in others, they lay within systems and institutions,”

The outgoing Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, has this week called for urgent action on measures to reduce racism at the  launch of his final report before stepping down this week.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience racism in systemic and institutional ways.

In 2016, 46 per cent of Indigenous respondents reported experiencing prejudice in the previous six months, compared to 39 per cent for the same period two years before.

Thirty-seven per cent reported experiencing racial prejudice in the form of verbal abuse, and 17 per cent reported physical violence

In 2015-16, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounted for 54 per cent of complaints received by the Commission under the Racial Discrimination Act.

Download report here Anti-Racism in 2018 and Beyond

For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, systemic racism is bound up in historical disadvantage and mistreatment. Practices such as that of removing Aboriginal children from their families have caused huge amounts of hurt and pain for individuals, families and communities. This shows up in lots of different ways – poor health, high rates of mental illness and family breakdowns.”

See Section 2 Below 

“On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.”

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute,  (and a former chair of NACCHO) see her opinion article below link ” This article has been read over 22,000 times in past 4 years 

NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism : What are the impacts of racism on Aboriginal health ?

There is an underbelly of racism in this country, of ignorance, and of fear” Senator Pat Dodson responds to maiden senate speech by Senator Anning WATCH VIDEO

True or False? We fact-check Senator Fraser Anning on his comments regarding Muslims, crime and welfare. http://bit.ly/2PdDH8H

Human Rights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Website

 

 

The Report, Anti-Racism in 2018 and Beyond, is part of the National Anti-Racism Strategy – a partnership-based strategy –  which was launched in 2012.

Watch Video

Today’s report reveals the increasing need for strong anti-racism policies and leadership, given the rise of anti-immigration and far-right populism.

“Since 2015, race has dominated headlines and driven public debates in a way that many would not have anticipated when the National Anti-Racism Strategy was last evaluated,” said Dr Soutphommasane.

“Anti-racism efforts must give voice to the individuals and communities who experience it. Racial prejudice and discrimination have profound silencing effects on those who are their targets,” he said.

The Report looks at the multiple causes of racism and the need for organisations, communities and individuals to not only identify racism, but call it out and build strategies that change behaviours.

Dr Soutphommasane says each and every one of us can make a difference.

 1.What is Racism 

Racism takes many forms and can happen in many places. It includes prejudice, discrimination or hatred directed at someone because of their colour, ethnicity or national origin.

People often associate racism with acts of abuse or harassment. However, it doesn’t need to involve violent or intimidating behaviour. Take racial name-calling and jokes. Or consider situations when people may be excluded from groups or activities because of where they come from.

Racism can be revealed through people’s actions as well as their attitudes. It can also be reflected in systems and institutions. But sometimes it may not be revealed at all. Not all racism is obvious. For example, someone may look through a list of job applicants and decide not to interview people with certain surnames.

Racism is more than just words, beliefs and actions. It includes all the barriers that prevent people from enjoying dignity and equality because of their race.

Many people experience racist behaviour.

The Challenging Racism Project has found that 20 per cent of Australians surveyed had experienced racial discrimination in the form of race hate talk, and about 5 per cent had been attacked because of their race. According to the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion survey in 2016, 20 per cent of Australians had experienced racial or religious discrimination during the past 12 months.

Some groups experience racism at higher rates. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those from culturally diverse backgrounds, often have to deal with systemic forms of discrimination. Such experiences limit the access that members of these groups enjoy to the opportunities and resources offered to many people from Anglo-Australian backgrounds.

For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, systemic racism is bound up in historical disadvantage and mistreatment. Practices such as that of removing Aboriginal children from their families have caused huge amounts of hurt and pain for individuals, families and communities. This shows up in lots of different ways – poor health, high rates of mental illness and family breakdowns.

Migrants and refugees also regularly experience racism, in particular those who have recently arrived. Media reports and commentary that use negative stereotypes about refugees and migrants can fuel prejudice against these groups in the wider community. These attitudes can make it difficult for new arrivals to find housing and jobs, and to feel connected to their communities.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health and #racism : Speech Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner

 

“Australia’s First Peoples have endured an intolerable amount of grief and trauma, which has had a splintering effect on our health and wellbeing for generations. There is no question that racism causes trauma

As a result, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live out our lives overshadowed by ongoing and relentless experiences of trauma.

Cycles of trauma results in lifelong chronic illnesses and health implications for our people. It weighs heavy on all our hearts and if unaddressed, exacerbates drug and alcohol dependence and mental health risks such as anxiety, depression and suicide.[4]

We warn people against drug and alcohol dependence however – society should always be safeguarding against ever creating trauma because it is what is at the root of our public health crisis.

But there are positive practices where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are stepping up to and creating their own responses to social disadvantage and trauma.

Envisioning change, I would like to imagine what children and young people can be and give to the world when they are free from discrimination.

Our children and young people are our future – they are the next generation of leaders and lawmakers for our communities

The nature of the challenge that we face is complex and overwhelming – but for the sake of our children, we must tackle this, one step at a time, one person at a time, one policy at a time.

A voice gives us the ability to do that.”

Selected Extracts Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

All references here :

Read all 80 plus NACCHO articles Aboriginal Health and Racism HERE

Jalangurru lanygu balanggarri.
Yaningi warangira ngindaji yuwa muwayi ingirranggu, Boon Wurrung way Wurundjeri yani u.

Good morning everyone.

I stand here today on the lands of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri People.

I acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations, in particular the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people, the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet today and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present, and the generations to come.

I come from the Bunuba people, and Warangarri, my traditional lands in the Fitzroy Valley, Western Australia.

Thank you to Sarah Joseph and your team from the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law for bringing us together and inviting me to speak to you all.

Earlier today, I was reflecting on speaking here at an institute named after the late Ron Castan QC, who was a remarkable man. A steadfast human rights lawyer committed to advancing the rights of Australia’s First Peoples.

As we recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Mabo No.2 High Court decision, we cannot forget those who stood by Koiki Mabo and his co-claimants to fight the decade long legal battle which ensued.

I’d like to acknowledge Ron’s wife Nellie and their daughter Melissa who are here today.

Nellie I treasure the memory of your visit to the Kimberley with your late husband a couple of years after the Mabo 2 High Court judgment. Your husband was such wonderful and cheerful company who reached out to all he encountered with his easy going manner and great sense of humour and conversation.

His giant intellect was natural and inclusive and never consciously asserted. Although the judges of the High Court may have had a different view when he argued Koiki Mabo’s case so persuasively.

Role of the Social Justice Commissioner

I address you today as the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Some of you here today may agree with me when I say that women are often the glue holding our communities together, particularly in times of stress.

Like many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, I have multiple kinship and caring responsibilities as a mother, daughter, sister, aunt and as a community leader.

I’d like to take note that this year represents 30 years since the Australian government funded programs and services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are beginning to gain their voice in our society and I want to emphasise the importance of our role in weaving families and communities into being.

In our many roles, we have a responsibility, to nurture and grow strong children, to pass on knowledge, mentor our young people, and listen to what the younger generations in our communities have to say about their lives.

While each generation has sought to hold onto their future by addressing the challenges of the time, for far too long, the narrative of our fate has been held in the hands of others. It is now our time, to take hold of our future.

We draw on our strengths, which are centred around our cultural identity, our unwavering connection to our country, our family and kinship, our languages, our song lines and ceremonies.

And we stand on the shoulders of our leaders that have drawn from the same deep reservoir of strength.

As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, it is my responsibility to report to the Australian Government on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Throughout my five-year term, I will advocate for and promote the great strengths of our peoples across our diverse communities.

We know the strength that comes from our culture and this should be the starting point for many of the challenges that we face. It is what gives us the resilience we need and we know that resilience is the bedrock to combat the pervasive trauma that so many in our communities experience.

We must invest in our most precious possessions – our children. We must invest in their safety, their protection and their quality of life.

Sadly, our children have to be equipped with the tools to combat trauma in a rapidly changing world where the future will bring many complex and perplexing challenges.

Overcoming racism in our society is one of these particular challenges.

Nelson Mandela once said that, ‘the very fact that racism degrades both the perpetrator and the victim commands that, if we are true to our commitment to protect human dignity, we fight on until victory is achieved.’[1]

Human Rights Framework

Under international human rights law, freedom from racism and racial discrimination is a fundamental human right. Australia has an obligation to ensure that children are protected against all forms of violence and discrimination, not least any discrimination that is racially motivated.

In practice, human rights law doesn’t easily translate in our everyday lives – for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people it can seem so unattainable that it becomes an irrelevant concept. During my term as Social Justice Commissioner, I want to make rights real for our people. Our rights are real and tangible. They are not abstract concepts.

In September this year, we commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration was developed by and for Indigenous peoples across the globe and it provides a framework on how to fully realise the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across Australia.

We need to be able to make this framework of human rights law and principle accessible and relevant in the daily lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – there is a need for more rights awareness in our communities, in a language we can understand and has to be translated into tools for people to use.

The language many of us understand is equality and equity – it is language that gives people fair and impartial access to their rights.

Racism/Racial Discrimination

The second article of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that:

‘Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.’

Australia has expressed a commitment to upholding the Declaration’s principles.

Imagine what it would be like to instil all our children with a zero tolerance to racism? Can we imagine a celebration of racial diversity where all our children are taught the proud and resilient history of Australia’s First Peoples?

I’d like to imagine this for the sake of our children and this nation.

But first, we have to understand what racism means – it puts a halt to people’s lives, it curtails their futures. When we discriminate based on race the likelihood is that we are destroying someone’s future. We know the outcome of racial discrimination, the more frequently it occurs over time, the more entrenched harm becomes.

It is no secret; Australia’s First Peoples have endured systemic racial discrimination in this country and it is unsurprising that the majority of complaints made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Australian Human Rights Commission are about racial discrimination.[2]

According to the 2016 Australian Reconciliation Barometer, both perceived and actual experiences of racism have actually increased with almost 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians reporting they had experienced verbal racial abuse in the last 6 months.[3]

These experiences can be relentless, numbing even.

We often become so desensitised to the normalisation of social and institutional racism in this country that we do not think to call it out or make a formal complaint over the other priorities of daily life.

And we cannot escape the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience constant exposure to racism, profoundly influencing the education, employment, housing, health and life outcomes for our people.

Unresolved trauma

It is true that there remains much unresolved, unreconciled and unfinished business for our people and this nation.

Australia’s First Peoples have endured an intolerable amount of grief and trauma, which has had a splintering effect on our health and wellbeing for generations. There is no question that racism causes trauma.

The brutal impact of colonisation that has displaced our people, has left a great wake in its path and has had a devastating impact on our communities. The growth of Australian society has established its own structures to maintain this position and brick by brick, has engulfed us. This legacy has left us as aliens in our own lands and lead to much of the structural racism and social disadvantage that we face today.

As a result, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live out our lives overshadowed by ongoing and relentless experiences of trauma.

Cycles of trauma results in lifelong chronic illnesses and health implications for our people. It weighs heavy on all our hearts and if unaddressed, exacerbates drug and alcohol dependence and mental health risks such as anxiety, depression and suicide.[4]

We warn people against drug and alcohol dependence however – society should always be safeguarding against ever creating trauma because it is what is at the root of our public health crisis.

But there are positive practices where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are stepping up to and creating their own responses to social disadvantage and trauma.

A few years ago in my own community of Fitzroy Crossing, a high spate of youth suicides and alcohol related deaths brought about deep sadness within the community – coroner inquests noted that many of these deaths were preventable.

It forced the women within my community to come together. We called for action on alcohol restrictions and we were met with much resistance, but we were determined to make things better for our community.

We had to imagine the long term, permanent healing of the gaping wounds left from alcohol abuse in our community.

We have a vested interest in the survival of our peoples and have to make hard decisions so that our people not only survive, but thrive. We also know that as Indigenous peoples, our contribution to the world is incredibly important.

We sat down with families to understand their needs, built relationships with the local police, with local businesses and government service departments. At the core of any discussion, our strengths as cultural people laid the foundations to overcome these challenges.

While not flawless, our approaches resulted in multipronged engagement across all sectors of the community and the delivery of wrap around services to assist families in need.

Just last week I attended a regional roundtable on alcohol management in the Kimberley and it was a pleasure to see a broader discussion and participation from more stakeholders sitting with the Aboriginal leadership and working through future steps to address this situation at a regional level. This is what is required for greater, lasting impact for change.

Children and Racism

Envisioning change, I would like to imagine what children and young people can be and give to the world when they are free from discrimination.

Our children and young people are our future – they are the next generation of leaders and lawmakers for our communities, they are the artists, scientist, writers and astronauts of tomorrow.

Even though we experience setbacks, our people are achieving great things! We now have over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have been awarded their PhDs, having reached the highest level of academic attainment in the Western system.

We must not lose sight of our positive gains.

We must dream big! Our children are capable of doing all of these things and we better start believing it otherwise it won’t become reality.

Almost 50 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is under the age of 22. That is a huge demographic coming through. [5]

We know that when a child is given the best start in life, that child succeeds throughout their life.

We all, of course, would like to see our children and young people succeed. It is incredibly exciting to think of what our children can become and about the type of modern and inclusive Australia they will inherit. We have no choice but to get things right!

Child Protection

This year also commemorates the 20 year anniversary of the Commission’s Bringing them Home Report, which highlighted the pain and suffering of the children and families of our Stolen Generations.

The Bringing them Home Report found that ‘between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970.’[6]

Many of the descendants from the stolen generation still carry trauma of their removal and time separated from their families with them. Again, these laws are further evidence of the structural racism which has affected and inhibited the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The power of laws to control our movements and the survival and cultural practices of our peoples and the current rates of removals speak to the enduring effect of these policies which have paralysed us.

Knowing what we know now from the Bringing them Home Report, it is almost inconceivable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children today are being removed at an even greater rate than when the report was released!

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are now almost 10 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in the out-of-home care system and numbers are set to triple by 2035.[7]

This is a national tragedy.

The child protection system is meant to safeguard the rights of children, keep them safe with the best interests of the child being the primary consideration.

I also believe our communities are supposed to be where children feel safe and protected. In this regard, the child protection system has a role in strengthening families and ensuring the cultural security of communities.

If a child is under the protection of child welfare, we need to consider the ways that that child remains connected to their culture, identity and community, rather than be taken away, cut off from the things that may be able to provide ongoing strength throughout their life.

Juvenile Justice

It is sad to say, that the child protection system has become a prerequisite for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to enter the justice system.

Alarmingly, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between 10-17 years are in juvenile detention.[8]

Over the last few years, we have seen increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people with complex behavioral and psychological needs being placed in the child protection and juvenile justice systems.

There are many things we can do now to begin to break this cycle of trauma however what we are dealing with now is not acceptable.

It is my view that these institutions are just not appropriately equipped to care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children generally, let alone our children with complex needs.[9]

I have seen this in my own community, working with mothers, their children and families who are dealing with the effects of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder or FASD.

Some of the most vulnerable children in our communities are being exposed to irreparable harm and lifelong effects of trauma. We can prevent this but only if we understand, where it is coming from.

Our children and families need access to therapeutic educational programs to deal with the effects of early life trauma and complex health related illnesses such as FASD.

As our world is rapidly changing, these children will be waking as adults in a very different future. We have to consider giving them a future they deserve and equip them for what the future holds.

We need to end the all too common and disturbing life trajectory of our children – it is imperative that we break the circuit!

I’d like to briefly talk about the plight of a young Aboriginal man, Dylan Voller. Some of you may have seen the Four Corners program which exposed the abuse and neglect of children and young people, including Mr Voller in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory.

The centre was previously a maximum-security adult prison, now it’s a maximum-security detention centre for youths – of all youths detained in the Northern Territory, 95% are Aboriginal.

Mr Voller had spent time in the child protection system and had a number of encounters with the law before he found himself in youth detention at the age of 11 years. The majority of his life to date has been spent in youth detention – what seems to be a revolving door for many of our young people that further descends down into a life in adult prison.

The treatment of Dylan Voller and other youth at the Don Dale Detention Centre was the tipping point for our nation.

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has heard appalling evidence of neglect and abuse of youth detainees – from being denied toilet breaks during transportation and having to ‘go’ in their own clothing to being hooded in restraint chairs, the use of tear gas and children being left in solitary confinement, sometimes naked, for prolonged periods.

The purpose of youth detention is to detain and rehabilitate children who have broken the law. These institutions as they currently operate, are simply unable to do what is required to support our young people. We just cannot treat our children with violence and abuse and expect they will become non-violent law-abiding citizens.

As we await the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations, more stories of prison guards and people in positions of power sexually harming children at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is distressing and simply unacceptable!

Although I am an optimist at heart, we must have hope and we must not give up demanding the change we need to heal our communities – our families and children.

I am quietly optimistic to hear that Mr Voller, now a young adult, has received a suspended sentence, which, with the right supports, provides him with a chance to grow with opportunities for a better future.[10]

Institutional settings and racism

Though, I do also believe the recommendations in the Bringing them Home report are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. There is a resurgence and urgency to implement recommendations made in the past – now.

The Bringing them Home report set national legislative standards for:

  • the placement of Indigenous children in out-of-home care, and
  • for rules to be followed in every matter involving an Indigenous child or young person in the Juvenile justice system.

Despite attempts made over the years to provide some remedy for our kids in these institutional settings, the fact remains, far too many of our children:

  • are being placed with non-Indigenous carers,
  • are being separated from their siblings
  • are losing their connection to their community, country, language and culture and
  • far too many of our children are given custodial sentences for relatively minor offences – such as stealing a toothbrush because they are homeless.

Systemic racism is a major obstacle to addressing these issues and our peoples are tired of the decades of reports and inquiries that have captured the experiences of our peoples only to be left largely not actioned and not implemented.

Importance of healing and education

As I said earlier, our culture is our strength. The best form of resilience we can give to our children is the therapeutic healing which comes from strong identity, our traditional medicines and practices.

I also believe that through education, we can overcome many obstacles.

Self-determined models of education are paving the way for our children. I have heard incredible successes achieved by Aboriginal owned and run schools such as the Murri School in Queensland. They provide a holistic learning environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families with healing camps and make available daily family support services.

Education can provide a deeper understanding of the history, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It can foster the development of empathy – to understand what it really means to walk in the shoes of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in this country.

We do have the power and responsibility as parents and elders to shape the thinking of our children. Their minds are like sponges, they are smart and when given the opportunity, are hungry to learn.

I’d like to encourage you all to be mentors and have high expectations of our children so they are encouraged to achieve and be their best person and so that racism has no place in their lives.

How can we rebuild and strengthen communities? We are beginning to see some education models taking the lead on this approach already. If we transfer the learnings and best practices from education settings to the child protection and youth justice arenas, our children may just have a chance in life.

The Australian Constitution and the Racial Discrimination Act

I’d also like to talk to you today about how the Australian Constitution is an instrument with the potential to both hinder and benefit the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

You don’t need to be a constitutional lawyer to know that the constitution wasn’t written with the inclusion of the First Peoples of this country in mind.

It is hard to imagine the drafters of the Australian constitution were not aware of the active social and political measures working at the time to deny, dehumanise or breed out our mere existence.

For the most part of the last two centuries, we have been oppressed and excluded from wider society – from our own lands, our home. This complete disregard or denial of our existence and the violent history of this nation is often referred to as the Great Australian Silence.

So for some, the constitution reminds us of the living examples of structural racism that frames our existence as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our nation has been reflecting upon the historical achievements of the 1967 referendum half a century ago this year.

50 years ago, our fellow Australians stood alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, united in the desire for change. We know that not enough change has occurred in the subsequent five decades but our nation has an opportunity to complete that journey.

We know we just can’t continue to deny the rightful place Australia’s First Peoples have in this country. Moving forward together is our only option.

I’d like to provide you with a quote from Gularrwuy Yunupingu of the Yolngu people which I believe sums up the spirit by which we should be guided along this constitutional reform journey. Gularrwuy says,

What Aboriginal people ask is that the modern world now makes the sacrifices necessary to give us a real future. To relax its grip on us. To let us breathe, to let us be free of the determined control exerted on us to make us like you. And you should take that a step further and recognise us for who we are, and not who you want us to be. Let us be who we are – Aboriginal people in a modern world – and be proud of us. Acknowledge that we have survived the worst that the past had thrown at us, and we are here with our songs, our ceremonies, our land, our language and our people – our full identity. What a gift this is that we can give you, if you choose to accept us in a meaningful way’ – Gularrwuy Yunupingu[11]

I was at Uluru a few months ago, when our people spoke about the structural changes needed for our nation to come together in a meaningful way – in mutual respect and reciprocity.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, raises a series of challenges to the Parliament and people of Australia. It calls for:

  • constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution.
  • a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

These calls for structural change are not new. For generations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have been calling for these things. Now more than ever, history and the future for our people to be self-determining needs to be set right!

In fact, indigenous peoples across the globe are feeling like this now, that although our desires for a more humane society aren’t new, the urgency to create it is. We have got to find a way to reground ourselves where we are able to pursue self- determination, which is primarily a collective right but it also recognises rights of individuals in pursuing a better life.

The changes made to the constitution in 1967 empowered the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the implied intention that these laws would be for our benefit.

While there are only limited examples, we have seen occasions where the Australian Constitution has served as a powerful instrument in asserting our right to be treated as equal citizens.

Ron Castan himself was adept in arguing for the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to protect Indigenous peoples rights.

In Mabo No1, the High Court had to consider whether Queensland legislation aimed to extinguish the claimed rights of the Meriam people to the Murray Islands, was constitutionally valid.

The High Court agreed with Ron’s argument and found that the Queensland legislation contravened the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975, applying the principle of non-discrimination in the enjoyment of property rights.[12] And without the victory in Mabo 1, the High Court would not have heard Mabo 2.

For the most part, the Racial Discrimination Act has provided a degree of legal protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience racial discrimination. However, it is important to note, the act has been suspended on three occasions at the expense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights – one of those occasions was to enact the Northern Territory Emergency Response – or the Intervention as it has become known, 10 years ago.

Conclusion

For our peoples, emergency responses such as the intervention, inquiries and reports have become a substitute for action and whilst I have real hopes for what recommendations come out of the Don Dale commission, we know that real change requires a generational commitment not bound by political cycles – that works with us to shift how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are currently able to participate in Australian society.

We need structures, schools, safe spaces where we see ourselves reflected back to us, where we are respected, but also where our voices are heard. I don’t mean having a separate society for our peoples but one where we clearly see a place for ourselves in what exists around us. Sadly, many of our people do not see that as a part of their lived reality.

Decades of powerlessness and feeling voiceless have really led to where we have arrived at with the Uluru Statement, and more recently the Referendum Council report recommendations. They are demands from our peoples to finally address the structural racism, which the Australian nation is founded upon – in a way that gives our peoples a permanent say in the matters that affect us.

The nature of the challenge that we face is complex and overwhelming – but for the sake of our children, we must tackle this, one step at a time, one person at a time, one policy at a time. A voice gives us the ability to do that.

On that note I would like to finish with a comment about the legacy of Ron Castan. He was a man of extraordinary integrity and wisdom who understood well Australia’s history and contemporary social and political character. He was someone who, I remember as being a genuine believer in arguing the merits of a case for the benefit of this nation as a whole.

As we enter the serious process of political decision making about the appropriate question that the Australian Parliament decrees should be put to the Australian people at a Referendum about recognising Indigenous peoples in Australia’s Constitution, we should not shy away from being courageous and arguing for the right question.

And we should never underestimate or prejudge the wisdom of the Australian people who we know from the 27th of May 1967 are more than capable of doing the right thing.

Thank you

Theme: Home

The 2017 Human Rights photo competition is now open.

The 2017 photo competition by the Australian Human Rights Commission explores the broad theme of Home, and we’ll showcase here a selection of the best photos you’ve sent us.

The theme is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home…

About the competition

  • There will be two categories for entries: Under 18 and 18 & over.
  • Overall winners will receive their prizes at the 2017 Human Rights Awards on December 8 in Sydney. A selection of photos from the Competition will also be on display.
  • Prize is a $600 voucher to spend at JB-Hifi, Apple or camera store.
  • The competition will close on 30 September 2017.

If you have a query about the competition, please email photocomp@humanrights.gov.au

 

Aboriginal Health #18C #RDA and International Day for the Elimination of #Racial Discrimination 21 March

  ” In an extraordinary case of timing, the Coalition will debate on March 21 (today ) removing protections in Australia’s race hate laws on what is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”

James Massola Canberra Times 21 March HERE

  ” The theme in 2017 for is Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Australia has continuing challenges regarding racial abuse and discrimination, evidenced for example by the disproportionate incarceration rates for Indigenous Australians, the current Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory and the treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres both onshore and offshore.”

Posted 20 March Australian Parliament Website see in full below

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination \

“ Surveys suggested racism was already a near-universal experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, with 97% having experienced it in the past year and more than 70% reporting eight or more incidents in that period. Almost one-third said they had experienced racism in the health setting.

By settings standards of conduct, the law had an important role in containing the spread of racism and race hate, and described the watering down of sections 18c & d of the RDA as a “major risk” for the effective implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023.

The Plan envisages a health system free of racism, offering effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable health services to Indigenous Australians “

Matthew Cooke Chair of NACCHO

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #FU2racism :

Research shows majority of Australians believe #18C protections should stay

” Groundhog Day this week and that hoary old favourite of the clearly oppressed and downtrodden right-wing commentariat, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Let’s start with the latter, which is a touchstone for conservatives who, as Attorney-General George Brandis once put it, want to enshrine their legal rights to be bigots.

Put aside for a minute that none of the people who claim 18C is the gravest threat to free speech Australia has ever faced can actually answer the following question: “What exactly is it that you want to say, but the law as it stands prohibits you from saying now?”

Paul Syvret is assistant editor at The Courier-Mail 21  March

Instead realise that the RDA has some fairly iron-clad protections in the form of section 18D.

This is a section you don’t often hear the free-speech warriors discussing a lot, and it reads as follows:

“Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:

(a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or

(b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or

(c) in making or publishing: (i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or (ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.”

As Queensland MP and deputy chairman of the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Graham Perrett points out, that committee – after a 112-day inquiry with 11,000 submissions – decided NOT to recommend any changes to the RDA.

As the forests of newsprint continue to be devoted to lionising The Australian’slate and controversial cartoonist Bill Leak, an aggressive crusader for repealing section 18C, Perrett has this to say: “The untimely passing of cartoonist Bill Leak is very distressing for his family and friends.

“Most Australians, including me, recognise his undoubted creative talent. Nevertheless, Mr Leak’s cartoons are not relevant to any discussion about changing section 18C.

“Indeed, the legislation makes it very clear that Leak’s cartoons would not be caught by section 18C due to the exemptions in section 18D.”

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

 

The United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of worldwide events on 21 March every year.

Proclaiming the Day on 26 October 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination (resolution 2142 (XXI)).The date of 21 March was chosen to commemorate that day in 1960 when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid ‘pass laws’.

Since those earlier days, the UN observes there has been progress:

… the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted on 21 December 1965 and entered into force on 4 January 1969.

2017 theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration

Every year the International Day is held under one specific theme. The theme in 2017 is Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as ‘a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity’ according to a report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism of 20 April 2015.

Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations Member States strongly condemned acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.

Campaigns and events

The UN is promoting the following campaigns and events in relation to the International Day:

Together is a United Nations initiative to promote respect, safety and dignity for refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.

Stand up for someone’s rights today is a campaign launched by the UN Human Rights Office on Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2016. It aims to: encourage, support and amplify what you do in your everyday life to defend human rights.

The Week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination begins on 21 March each year. It was first established as part of the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 (A/RES/34/24).

To commemorate the 2017 International Day, on 17 March the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held a debate on racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration. In New York. there will be a General Assembly plenary meeting in observance of the International Day, on 21 March 2017.

Australia’s action

In Australia the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) was a landmark in race relations. The Act was a legislative expression of a new commitment to multiculturalism and it reflected the ratification by Australia of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

As the first Commonwealth legislation concerning human rights and discrimination, the Racial Discrimination Act set an important precedent. As described by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at a ceremony for its proclamation in October 1975, the Act was ‘a historic measure’, which aimed to ‘entrench new attitudes of tolerance and understanding in the hearts and minds of the people’.

Since 1999, 21 March in Australia has also been celebrated as Harmony Day. Timed to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Harmony Day is dedicated to celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity. Harmony Day events are supported by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and each year a wide range of community sporting and cultural organisation have held events including sporting activities, food festivals, dance and music performances  or simply bringing people together to talk and share stories.

While Harmony Day has shifted Australia’s commemorative focus to the more positive celebration of cultural diversity and racial harmony, the UN International Day with its focus on the prevention and eradication of racism is still relevant. Australia has continuing challenges regarding racial abuse and discrimination, evidenced for example by the disproportionate incarceration rates for Indigenous Australians, the current Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory and the treatment of asylum seekers in detention centres both onshore and offshore.

Parliament too, has more recently been involved in a debate on whether racial vilification laws impose unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech and the Joint Standing Committee on Human Rights has recently completed an inquiry into free speech and Australia’s laws against racial vilification.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s view, which was also supported by the majority of submissions to the Committee, is that ‘the laws against racial vilification have served Australia well over the last 20 years in sending the message that racial abuse will not be tolerated in our multicultural society’. Ultimately, there was no consensus from the Committee on whether any reform was necessary and, for the moment, the laws remain as they are.

NACCHO #Aboriginal Health and #Racism #justjustice : The importance of teaching doctors and nurses about unconscious bias

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 “Australian universities, medical schools and health systems grappling with how to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their institutions as participants and staff – and how to produce equality of outcomes – need to deal with both overt and systemic factors of racism.

In Australia, the inability to deal with unconscious bias and racism has serious health effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These include increased stress, mental ill-health and suicide, systemic racism in education, sports, justice and the public sector.

In a national survey of Aboriginal patients, 32.4% reported racial discrimination in medical settings most or all of the time. “

Gregory Phillips, Associate Professor and Research Fellow in Aboriginal Health at the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, considers the coroner’s recommendations in light of Australia’s “inability to deal with unconscious bias and racism”, in and out of the health system. He says our responses must go far beyond cultural awareness training and its implicit judgements:

Image above : Equality can only work if everyone starts from the same place, whereas equity is about making sure people get access to the same opportunities. Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire/madewithangus.com, CC BY

NACCHO Resources

Cultural awareness isn’t enough

 ” Teaching health professionals about Indigenous health will effectively require teaching about unconscious bias and racism; one’s own culture, values and motivations. It requires training in “unlearning” preconceptions, regular reflections on one’s own practices; as well as education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”  See Below

” The National Cultural Respect Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 2016–2026 (the Framework) was recently launched by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council .

This ten year framework seeks to guide delivery of culturally safe, responsive, and quality health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Download the COAG Cultural Respect Framework here :

cultural_respect_framework_1december2016_1

Ms Dhu coronial findings show importance of teaching doctors and nurses about unconscious bias

Originally published at The Conversation and then Croakey /JustJustice

In delivering her findings of the coronial inquest into the death of 22-year-old Ms Dhu during time spent in a Western Australian jail cell, state coroner Ros Fogliani was highly critical of some actions of police and medical staff.

She reportedly said Ms Dhu’s medical care in one instance was “deficient” and both police and hospital staff were influenced by preconceived notions about Aboriginal people.

Ms Dhu died on 4 August 2014 from staphylococcal septicaemia – a severe bacterial infection – and pneumonia, which were complicated by a previously obtained rib fracture. Released CCTV footage showed Ms Dhu moaning from pain, saying it was ten out of ten.

It was reported an emergency doctor considered her pain real but exaggerated for “behavioural gain”. Another doctor also noted Ms Dhu suffered from “behavioural issues” while a constable thought she was “faking” her suffering.

Ms Dhu’s case is not the first instance of mistreatment of an Aboriginal person in custody or a medical setting, nor is it likely the last. And while coroner Fogliani’s recommendations included mandatory, ongoing cultural competency training for police officers, to assist with health issues and other dealings with Aboriginal people, this isn’t enough.

For thirty years, Australian institutions have implemented cultural awareness programs. The thinking was if they taught staff about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, it would result in better lecturers, clinicians and policy-makers – and magically produce equity.

But this assumes Aboriginal culture is the problem. Like a deaf student in an all-hearing classroom, it is not the deaf student or their needs that are the problem, but a system that thinks an all-verbal and all-hearing teaching style is equal. The idea of equality itself entrenches systemic discrimination.

Unconscious bias

Singer Gurrumul Yunupingu has been suffering from chronic Hepatitis B since he was a child. ALAN PORRITT/AAP Image

 

 

 

In April, Darwin Hospital staff were under fire for allegedly leaving Aboriginal singer Gurrumul Yunupingu to bleed internally for eight hours. Media reported hospital staff noted Gurrumul’s liver damage was self-inflicted (a result of repeated heavy alcohol use) rather than being due to his chronic hepatitis B infection he had since he was a child.

We don’t know whether these allegations are true, but we do know unconscious bias exists in Australia. It refers to the instant judgements we make about other people and situations based on our own values, experiences and cultural and gender beliefs.

These judgements impact significantly on hiring and promotion decisions, how medical students make decisions, and in public discourse.

Regardless of merit or facts, research shows black or Indigenous people are more likely to be seen as less trustworthy; women to be risky prospects, and overweight people as irresponsible. Those with power and privilege judge those with less power for their inability to compete on terms set by the powerful.

So how is unconscious bias different to racism? Like an iceberg, unconscious bias is said to represent the beliefs, values and experiences (below water) that give rise to overt expressions of discrimination (above water).

There are two problems with these definitions, however. They don’t reveal how beliefs, values and experiences got into the subconscious in the first place. They may also imply it is not the responsibility of those with unconscious bias to change their implicit beliefs and explicit actions.

In Australia, the inability to deal with unconscious bias and racism has serious health effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These include increased stress, mental ill-health and suicide, systemic racism in education, sports, justice and the public sector.

In a national survey of Aboriginal patients, 32.4% reported racial discrimination in medical settings most or all of the time. These people felt they had been treated unfairly (which included being treated rudely or with disrespect; being ignored, insulted, harassed, stereotyped or discriminated against) because they were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Equality vs Equity

Public discussion about racism in Australia is often met with denial, discomfort and fragility. Some blame AFL player Adam Goodes for calling out racism – shooting the messenger is a common reaction.

Some stand with whistle blowers and defend their right to speak truth to power. Others completely deny racism’s existence, wishing it would go away because “we treat everyone the same”.

But the impulse to treat everyone the same confuses equality of inputs with equality of outcomes. As the below diagram shows, treating everyone with equal inputs (the same boxes) produces an inequality of outcomes (not everyone can access the game).

Alternatively, treating everyone differently, according to their needs and humanity is more likely to produce equality of outcomes where everyone can access the game. Equity deals not only with overt discrimination but the systemic factors that give rise to it.

Australian universities, medical schools and health systems grappling with how to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their institutions as participants and staff – and how to produce equality of outcomes – need to deal with both overt and systemic factors of racism.

Cultural awareness isn’t enough

Teaching health professionals about Indigenous health will effectively require teaching about unconscious bias and racism; one’s own culture, values and motivations. It requires training in “unlearning” preconceptions, regular reflections on one’s own practices; as well as education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Most importantly, if the clinician cannot see themselves, their privilege and power as a potential problem, this will inadvertently re-establish racism and unconscious bias.

People had mixed reactions when Adam Goodes spoke out on racism in Australia. DEAN LEWINS/AAP Image

Educators have found patiently moving Australian medical students who were initially hostile to Aboriginal health curricula through their discomfort to reach the “a-ha” moment, is a key teaching strategy in producing better prepared doctors.

Further, cultural awareness training assumes that even if we could train every individual staff member in a hospital to be perfectly culturally competent, they would then go on to magically produce better health outcomes.

But the systemic factors – workplace culture, policies, power, funding and criteria on which decisions are made – are critical if we want a culturally equitable society.

Improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people includes moving from a goal of equality to equity; teaching about racism and unconscious bias, not just culture; and making explicit the deeper transformational work of institutional decolonisation. We need to ask: how can power be shared? On whose terms are decisions made? Who owns institutions and services? Whose criteria are used to judge effectiveness?

The answer is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander definitions and measurement tools of success are more likely to contribute to producing better outcomes than those where unconscious bias and racism is implicit. The work of admitting and addressing institutional racism remains.

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How you can support #JustJustice

• Download, read and share the 2nd edition – HERE.

Buy a hard copy from Gleebooks in Sydney (ask them to order more copies if they run out of stock).

• Send copies of the book to politicians, policy makers and other opinion leaders.

• Encourage journals and other relevant publications to review #JustJustice.

• Encourage your local library to order a copy, whether the free e-version or a hard copy from Gleebooks.

• Follow Guardian Australia’s project, Breaking the Cycle.

Readers may also be interested in these articles:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #FU2racism : Research shows majority of Australians believe #18C protections should stay

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 ” While debate over the merits of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act continues to rage, new research shows that an overwhelming majority of Australians support legislation that prevents insults on the basis of race, culture or religion.

We found that just 10% of Australians believe people should have the freedom to “insult” and “offend” people on the basis of race, culture or religion.

Over 75% are opposed. The poll, conducted by Essential Research for the Cyber Racism and Community Resilience (CRaCR) and our other Challenging Racism research projects, undermines other claims that nearly 50% of Australians want the key words removed from Section 18C.

Authors Professor of Sociology, University of Technology Sydney ,Dean of the School of Social Science and Psychology, Western Sydney University Research Assistant, Challenging Racism Project, Western Sydney University

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Download research from last nights Is Australia racist  challenging_racism_report_3

Download cyber-racism-and-community-resilience-cracr

“ Surveys suggested racism was already a near-universal experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, with 97% having experienced it in the past year and more than 70% reporting eight or more incidents in that period. Almost one-third said they had experienced racism in the health setting.

By settings standards of conduct, the law had an important role in containing the spread of racism and race hate, and described the watering down of sections 18c & d of the RDA as a “major risk” for the effective implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023.

The Plan envisages a health system free of racism, offering effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable health services to Indigenous Australians “

Matthew Cooke Chair of NACCHO

From post 21 December 2016 Aboriginal Health and #Racism : NACCHO submission to #SavetheRDA #18C Inquiry into #Freedomofspeech

Download our full submission here

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Over 5 years we have NACCHO has published over 70 artiicles

Aboriginal health and Racism

Australians believe 18C protections should stay

A parliamentary inquiry into 18C is moving towards its climax, with the committee due to report by February 28. It has been a mammoth task for the committee members, with thousands of submissions and dozens of witnesses.

Section 18C makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone on the basis of race and culture. It has been under attack from conservative commentators and politicians after News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached 18C without an acceptable defence under the related Section 18D.

In the 2013 election, then prime minister Tony Abbott pledged to get rid of the section. Attorney-General George Brandis attempted to do this in 2014. A strong push-back by community groups forced Abbott to abandon the changes.

After the 2016 election, conservatives such as Cory Bernardi, in tandem with the Institute for Public Affairs, reactivated the campaign to remove section 18C, though limiting their reach to excising the words “insult” and “offend”.

As we reported on February 1, the “truth” about what Australians think of and want to happen with 18C has been a matter of critical interest. The Australian newspaper has been a sustained campaigner for removing 18C. It argues the law is too great a threat to freedom of speech.

CRaCR commissioned Essential to include four questions in its February 8 omnibus poll. We asked whether people agreed or disagreed with the propositions that “people should be free to offend/ insult/ humiliate/ intimidate someone on the basis of their race, culture or religion”. The finding is that Australians do not support this proposition. Only 5 to 10% champion such “freedoms”.

Our simple question formats eschewed any prelude points concerning “competing freedoms” or double-barrel questions as in the Galaxy poll.

After we gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry, and were questioned on the apparently conflicting findings, we set out to generate transparent and valid data. We developed a simple test to discover the extent to which Australians believe that people should be free to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others on the basis of race, culture or religion. This would be the consequence of removing Section 18.

Our research in 2014 asked if people thought it should be unlawful to do what 18C covered. On the insult and offend questions, support for the law was 72% and 66%, while on humiliate and intimidate it rose to 74% and 79%. The IPA claimed since then there had been a major shift towards accepting the removal of these first two conditions of vilification.

Our new research demonstrates this is not the case. Our Essential sample was representative (by age, gender, region and so on).

Our four questions were aimed to test whether people supported removing insult and offend from 18C. We found that Australians have increased their support for protections from insulting and offensive attacks on the basis of race, culture and religion.


 


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Only 5 to 10% of Australians support the right to offend on the basis of race, culture or religion. Those who are younger, and males, are more likely to support these freedoms.

In our other surveys over the past decade, we have found that about the same proportion of Australians (one in ten) hold negative views about diversity and “races”. For example, around 10-12% believe that some races are superior to others, and that groups should not intermarry. These are indicators of racial supremacism and racial separatism.

There may well be those who support these freedoms from a Voltaire-inspired conviction about the right to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. However, analysis of the 2014 CRaCR survey data has found statistical associations between authors of online racism, racist dispositions and a preference for the freedom to offend. Authors of racism, with racist views, most want the right to be racist.

The political implications are also of interest. Focusing just on “offend” and “insult”, the spread confirms that the left of the political spectrum is more opposed to licensing hate than the right.

Support for the freedom to offend ranges from 7% (ALP and Greens) to 11% (LNP) and up to 16% with Others and Independents. Opposition to the freedom to offend peaks with the Greens (86%), but still sits at 70% for Independents.

Support for the freedom to insult ranges from 5% (ALP) and 8% (Greens) to 12% (LNP) and up to 13% with Others and Independents. Opposition to the freedom to insult peaks with the Greens (88%), but still sits at 72% for Independents.

This evidence suggests that over the past three years, despite incessant campaigning by pro-vilification proponents, Australians’ appetite for the “right to be bigots” has declined.

The impression we gain is that civility remains a high value. Whatever peoples’ valuing of freedom of speech, which is very high, they do not think that such a freedom should encompass the insulting and offending of people on the basis of race, culture or religion.

Moreover, this trend reverberates with the finding of another Essential poll in late 2016, where Australians worry that insulting people on the basis of race and religion is rising.

Now it’s over to the committee, parliament and the people

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NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism : Download report – Racism remains a barrier to reconciliation

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“Our Australian Reconciliation Barometer findings show that in the six months prior to the survey, 46 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, experienced at least one form of racial prejudice.

“This is up from 39 percent in 2014, and is two and a half times higher than an Australian from the general community, of whom only 18 percent had had such experiences,”

Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Officer, Mr Justin Mohamed ( and former Chair of NACCHO )

1.Download full report here ra_arb-2016_-full-report_final-1

2.Download Overview brochure ra_arb-2016_overview-brochure_web-1

Read over 7o articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism

Almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have described experiencing racism according to the findings of Reconciliation Australia’s latest Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey.

The Australian Reconciliation Barometer is a national research study conducted every two years to measure and compare attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation in both the general Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Other key findings of the survey reveal that:

  • Many Australians (57% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 39% Australians in the general Australian community) agree Australia is a racist country.
  •  Almost half (46%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians say they trust other Australians, but only 1 in 5 (19%) of the general Australian community think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians trust them.
  • Almost all Australians (97% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 89% Australians in the general community) believe the relationship is important.
  • Most Australians agree that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s national identity (93% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 77% Australians in the general community).

“What we’re seeing since the first survey in 2008 just after the National Apology to Stolen Generations is that whilst we’ve maintained a lot of goodwill since then, we aren’t moving fast enough on issues of racism and trust. This is holding all Australians back from having positive relationships with each other,” Mr. Mohamed added.

“Part of the problem that our State of Reconciliation in Australia report uncovered last year is that we aren’t addressing racism at an institutional level. Attempts to weaken legal protections under the Racial Discrimination Act are ongoing; Australia is yet to implement its international obligations under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Australian Constitution still allows for racial discrimination in our nation’s founding document.”

“The reality is, that unless goodwill is followed through with significant reform at an institutional level, Australia will continue to fall short of its full potential as a reconciled nation.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Nigel Scullion

Australian Reconciliation Barometer Report Response

9 February 2017

Reconciliation Australia’s biennial Australian Reconciliation Barometer has been released today, providing a snapshot of views on the relationship between First Australians and the wider Australian community.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said the report showed some encouraging signs but there was still a lot more work to be done.

“It is very pleasing that most Australians surveyed believe reconciliation is important and that itis possible for all Australians to be united,” Minister Scullion said.

“Almost everyone – 97 per cent of those surveyed – believed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s identity, and that more Australians in the general community now accept key facts about Australia’s past. This is extremely important going forward.

“Sadly, of those surveyed, almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people said theyexperienced at least one form of racial prejudice in the six months prior to the survey.

“Although there are notable improvements across the last two reports, there is still more Australia can do. There is a lot of goodwill out there and with further education we can ensure our First Australians enjoy respectful relationships to the same extent as fellow Australians.

“Australian businesses are leading the way through their commitments in Reconciliation Action Plans. Individuals in communities can also take a proud stand against racism.

“The Coalition Government is pleased to support Reconciliation Australia and the work it undertakes to increase the understanding of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and fellow Australians within businesses and communities throughout Australia.”

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Ode to Ms Dhu a powerful means to expose racism and demand justice

Della Roe, mother of Ms Dhu outside the coroner's court in Perth on Friday, Dec 16, 2016. The State Coroner is due to hand down findings into the death of Ms Dhu, who died in police custody in August, 2014. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

 ” Racism mires this nation, despite the denials of the many who reduce the debate to a minimum. Unsurprisingly, our state and federal governments remain idly quiet, as their parliaments do not reflect the demography of the nation in their make-up.

During  Ms Dhu coronial inquest, I listened to ludicrous assertions, such as, ‘there is no racism or discriminating in the work places of hospitals and police stations’.

All anti-discrimination, anti-racism and cross cultural training teaches us to recognise that every workplace is tainted by racism and discrimination, and only by recognising this can we manage and reduce incidences of racism and discrimination.

The police should have focused on Ms Dhu’s wellbeing, which was their duty of care, not her fines. “

By Gerry Georgatos

Image above : Della Roe, mother of Ms Dhu outside the coroner’s court in Perth on Friday, Dec 16, 2016.

On August 4, 2014, I was phoned by Ms Dhu’s family. Only hours before the phone call, she had passed away at the hand of racism. Some will argue racism did not kill Ms Dhu, but I am of the view racism did.

Mainstream Australia only became truly aware of Ms Dhu’s death on December 16, when the CCTV footage of Ms Dhu’s final moments was finally released publicly, after a lengthy legal battle. Ms Dhu’s family wanted the footage to be shown for the benefit of the public interest.

When handing out her findings into the causes of Ms Dhu’s death, the West Australian coroner found Ms Dhu’s death was preventable, and police were ‘unprofessional and inhumane’.

As the CCTV footage lays witness, Ms Dhu was dragged, carted, and hauled to the pod of a police vehicle, as her spirit left behind her mortal coil. The footage is disturbing.

Some would say Ms Dhu was dumped into the paddy wagon ‘like a dead kangaroo’.

The rawness of this visual analogy was not lost on The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl, who has just released a song about the events.

The renowned singer/songwriter had been reading my articles on Ms Dhu’s death and had contacted me to find out more.

Felix wanted to do something to raise awareness on Ms Dhu’s needless death. He felt the nation had to know about her abhorrent treatment in custody, and believes people should demand change.

Mid-last year, Felix emailed me a draft song: an ode in memory of Ms Dhu; a call to the nation’s principled and compassionate people to come as one and plea for justice.

When many rise, change happens

The song is a journey into injustice. It enumerates the wrongs Ms Dhu suffered in her last 48 hours.

Teenage female Aboriginal and Torres Strait youth choir, Marliya (Yindjibarndi for bush honey) from far north Queensland partnered with Felix.

Felix and Marilya capture the veils and layers of institutionalized systematic racism when they sing:

“…they carried her ‘like a dead kangaroo’, from her cell back to the same hospital who’d assumed that her pain must be invisible.”

The lyrics allude to some police having testified they thought Ms Dhu was faking illness and was coming down from drugs. Medical staff also thought she was exaggerating.

The bigger question is – why did police and hospital personnel decide ‘she was faking it’?

This assumption cost Ms Dhu her life. It denied her a proper health assessment and the care she needed.

Racism mires this nation, despite the denials of the many who reduce the debate to a minimum. Unsurprisingly, our state and federal governments remain idly quiet, as their parliaments do not reflect the demography of the nation in their make-up.

I endured racism as a child and have been haunted by it ever since. I have dedicated much of my research to unveiling it, but only so that we journey forward. I am exhausted by White Privilege talking down to minorities as if racism didn’t exist, as if White Privilege could ever understand what it is like to experience racism.

When Western Australian Coroner Ros Fogliani delivered her findings on Ms Dhu’s death on December 16, no one expected any damning condemnation from the coronial inquest.

We have been burnt so many times, hope was non-existent.

When 16-year-old John Pat died in 1983 in Roebourne, after being bashed to death by an inebriated police officer, Roebourne became to Western Australia what Birmingham had been to Alabama two decades prior: five police officers, who with furious fists laid into Yindjibarndi youth, were acquitted by an all-white jury.

A little over two decades later, we would be let down again when Mulrunji Doomadgee was critically injured in police custody. These police officers are still ‘serving the public’. So too are the police officers and health personnel who were ‘caring’ for Ms Dhu at the time of her death.

In November 2015 and March 2016, I attended most of the coronial inquest hearings into Ms Dhu’s death. I saw the footage, and though it broke the heart to see it, I was not surprised. Much injustice is perpetrated when racism, classism and sexism take hold.

Health personnel and police officers pleaded their innocence during the coronial inquest.

Felix and Marilya capture it best in the song:

“It wasn’t me, wasn’t me, I’m innocent, say the ones who betrayed her in every sense… Now they’re white washing away evidence, will we ever see a cop locked up for negligence?”

During the coronial inquest, I listened to ludicrous assertions, such as, ‘there is no racism or discriminating in the work places of hospitals and police stations’.

All anti-discrimination, anti-racism and cross cultural training teaches us to recognise that every workplace is tainted by racism and discrimination, and only by recognising this can we manage and reduce incidences of racism and discrimination.

Last November, I met with Coroner Fogliani to discuss some of my work in suicide. I also took the opportunity to discuss briefly Ms Dhu’s death and urged for the Custody Notification Service to be recommended.

This service would have mandatorily provided a stout advocate for Ms Dhu, which could have saved her life. I found Coroner Fogliani to be an open-minded individual, and I held out hope that she would come good in the findings and recommendations, despite the weight of pessimism rightfully felt by others.

Coroner Fogliani made eleven recommendations, the majority of which were much needed and long overdue.

She described the maltreatment by police as “unprofessional”, “inhumane and cruel”. However, she did not mention racism.

I would’ve gone further to describe the police’s treatment of Miss Dhu as brutal, malicious and racist. Yes, there was domestic violence incident, and yes, there was a staphylococcus infection and septicaemia. But what ensured Ms Dhu’s death was the police locking her up for fine defaulting, despite the fact that they had been called out to a domestic incident.

The police should have focused on Ms Dhu’s wellbeing, which was their duty of care, not her fines.

The Western Australian Police Commission has a lot to answer for, but has limited itself to reprimands. Country Health (WACHS) issued a statement in December accepting “the comments and recommendations made by the Coroner about the care Ms Dhu”.

The response reads: “WACHS has received, and is currently reviewing, the full Coroner’s report, and is seeking additional advice as to whether any further actions are reasonably required by WACHS”.

The coroner’s eleven findings, which include the call for the Custody Notification Service, were appropriate; however, they fell short of making involved police and health professionals accountable before the criminal justice system for their conduct. The coroner didn’t call out the role racism played, or required compensation for the Dhu family.

As the song illustrates:

Ms Dhu pleaded for her life.

“I am in so much pain.”

“Oh God, someone please help me.”

They did not. Where to from here?

 

22-year-old Ms Dhu would have turned 25 on Christmas Eve.