Aboriginal Death in Custody

There has been a series of incidents in Australia occurring over the past few years of which the rest of the world seems to have no knowledge.

It doesn't seem to happen anywhere else, it is pernicious and demoralising and it's flavour is purely Australian.

The authorities here give it the title of Deaths in Custody, but don't be fooled by this misnomer. The deaths are not just ordinary deaths, no one passes away from natural causes, although some DO suffer fatal accidents.

The deaths are caused by young men hanging themselves in prison, or in the watchhouse, or in the detention centre, and strangely enough all the men are black.

What kind of society is it when young men from 15 and 16 years up tie a sheet around their necks and hook it on the door handle of their cell, or from the light fitting, or from the barred window, and slowly strangle themselves to death!

And what kind of society is it that does nothing about this, and allows it to happen, knowing that young black men in custody are at risk, and leaves them alone with enough light-fittings, door handles and sheets to carry out this sentence of death.

Even when young men have threatened to kill themselves, they are still left alone, often no doctor is called, often no check is made on them for hours, most often the crime for which they are incarcerated is so minor as to be laughable, and had they the money would surely have bailed themselves out of jail.

When a young teenage boy broke into a school a couple of years ago and stole a tin of biscuits and a bottle of cordial because he was hungry he was sentenced to jail for three years. Within a couple of weeks he had hanged himself in the detention centre.

Doomadgee funeral - ©abc.net.auThis boy was sent away to the detention centre from the only family he had, a grandmother on a northern island, and he was placed with older boys and was very unhappy.

Of course there was an outcry. But how long did it last? Probably a week, there isn't much news value in black kids dying, and after all he was a criminal. It wasn't as if a white kid from a decent home had hanged himself....then you would see some talk in the community.

Black people in Australia suffer from a low self-esteem, brought about by the knowledge that they have had their own culture literally destroyed by the white people, and having had their land taken, their sense of belonging to the land is gone with it, and knowing that no matter how hard they struggle to make it in this dog eat dog world, they will still be black and thus never gain the respect the white people achieve so easily.

Australians love their black sports people, but if they stop playing sports and attempt another endeavour, they are usually denigrated outright.

And there are only some sports that blacks are welcome in. They are supposed to run, play football or maybe tennis, or participate in athletics.

How many black swimmers have you seen, how many cricket players?

Oh there was a black cricket player years ago, Eddie Gilbert, I knew him, he bowled Bradman for a duck, but wasn't allowed to eat with the team or travel with them, and his pay was paid to the Government as usual.

A Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody in 1997 found that the incidence of black men killing themselves whilst incarcerated is extremely high, so high in fact, that in the white population there are no figures kept of white deaths in custody.

The Royal Commission cited all sorts of reasons for which blacks will resort to this awful decision, one of them being that a lot of the deaths occurred to people in watchhouses, thus presuming that the person in question was drunk.

One reason they did not mention is the mental state of the Aborigine, sometimes drunk, but very often picked up for a minor crime for which he could not post bail, when placed in a situation so alien to him, and so hate-filled, that death seems at the time to be a better option.

A death of a black person, recently jailed, will not make a headline on the front page of any newspaper. It will not bring documentaries trying to find out the cause and the cure for the phenomenon, except for maybe a small mention on the ABC or SBS the ethnic channel.

Mainstream Australian media will not give the time to informing the public that young blacks are killing themselves off at an alarming rate in prison. No company with millions of dollars to spend on advertising will sponsor such stories.

The blacks in Australia have struggled alone from the day of First Settlement in 1788.

There has never been a Government that recognised the challenges faced by the Aborigines in this new world the Europeans made for them.

The present Government will not make any attempt at reconciliation between the black and white population, refusing outright an apology for the way the blacks have been treated over the past two hundred years.

It wasn't us.......they trumpet stupidly.....it was the first settlers, we weren't even born then.

How absolutely inane for a Government to miss an opportunity to unite all the people in the country. They are the ones who should give the example of unity and love of our brother that this country needs to survive into the twenty-first century.

In these days of war and hatred of ethnic minorities spreading throughout the world, the forgotten people of Australia are forgotten indeed.

All the Royal Commissions and all the visits from the WHO, will not change the fact that the UN can do nothing to help them, and they are indeed very much alone.

Copyright: Bernie Pattison
The Didjshop has received permission by the author to publish the above text on this web site.

Disclaimer: The Didjshop is not responsible for the accuracy of the above material and the opinions expressed in the above text are the views and opinions of the author.