Friday Reads #2
And another update for the future of Presence
First of all, an update on the direction of this newsletter. Thank you all to have subscribed over the past few months. It has meant so much. I feel it shows you believe in this type of work and it bolsters my confidence that there is an audience for reporting done from a position of sovereignty; one that is not tied to the aspirations of mainstream media but directly focused on advocating for mob. This week I quietly turned on paid subscriptions, taking the next step in building this newsletter into a sustainable operation that will allow me to report using a Presencing methodology.
When I received the Substack fellowship last year, I was confused about setting up paid subscriptions. The focus of this newsletter has never been that and I wanted the stories to be free and available to mob and allies. I want it to be of use in the continuing fight. But I also realised I needed to build up the resources to fund myself to do this. That’s why I turned on paid subscriptions - not to enact a paywall, but to allow readers to donate if they believe in this work. My dream is to report on cases directly when they go to trial or inquest or fund freelancers to report through a lens of Presencing. I’m a bit far off from that dream at the moment, but if you believe that this work is important, please consider a paid subscription. These Friday newsletters will be the only content behind a paywall from next week, while the Monday stories will remain completely free. You can subscribe below.
Justice for JC
On Thursday there was a national day of action for Aboriginal woman JC, who died in Geraldton at the hands of a police officer. The cop who shot her was acquitted of her murder and manslaughter last Friday. Aboriginal people and our allies rose up to contest this decision because we know that the legal system is not ‘equal’. The fact that Western Australia has the highest black jailing rates in the world, particularly of Aboriginal women and children, shows that the legal system is a weapon wielded against our people. JC had just been released from the overcrowded Bandyup prison before she died.
Noongar lawyer Hannah McGlade attended the trial and wrote a piece for Crikey.com.au last week. Her words are a must-read because it details the racial violence of the courts which in the words of Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson uses race to determine “who lives and who is made to live’”.
“Aboriginal women in Australia have been described as “the most incarcerated group of people in the world”, Hannah writes.
“Over 475 Aboriginal people have died in custody since the end of the 1991 royal commission. In NSW, the number of Aboriginal people charged by police increased by 67% between 2010 and 2020. Western Australia has the highest rates of incarceration and deaths in custody of Aboriginal people in the country.
Clarke’s trial was shrouded in secrecy. A suppression order was placed on the officer’s name due to safety concerns for his family. The media was allowed in, but the public was refused entry to the court.
This isn’t the first time the WA Supreme Court has suppressed information over those charged with murdering Aboriginal people. In 2016, the same court issued a suppression order over the name of the Kalgoorlie man who killed Elijah Doughty, a 14-year-old Indigenous boy. The man was eventually given a road traffic conviction.
There were no Aboriginal people on that jury and there were none in the murder trial for Clarke.”
Here is SBS’ reporting of the protests yesterday.
And here is ABC Indigenous Affairs reporter Bridget Brennan’s report on the rallies, which aired on 7:30 report last night.
In the lead-up to the rallies, JC’s mother Anne Jones released a statement about a beautiful piece of artwork that JC’s aunty Loretta Egan had painted in tribute to her. I thought the words were so poignant.
“The artwork is designed by Loretta Egan, a Yamatji lady born in Carnarvon. Loretta is Aunty to JC.
The artwork represents JC’s birthplace and resting place.
The south arm is (left of the design) is JC’s birthplace, Meekatharra.
The mouth of the river (bottom of the design) is Carnarvon (Aboriginal name ‘Gwoonwardu’) , JC’s resting place.
The Gascoyne River is referred to by Yamatji people as the Upside-down River. The three rivers join at the mouth of the Gascoyne River. This place has cultural significance to the Yamatji people of the Murchison Gascoyne.”
In thinking of black justice, particularly in relation to last week, I always come back to Mununjali/South Sea Islander academic Chelsea Watego’s piece in Meanjin, They Say Justice, We Say Murder.
“Makayla Reynolds, a sister of Nathan Reynolds who died in custody of an asthma attack due to glaring deficiencies in his care stated, ‘justice for me, is everything that it isn’t’. We see this when Blackfullas scream down city streets, ‘they say justice, we say murder’. It’s not a sign that we’ve given up on justice. In fact, we know it via its absence, and as such, refuse to accept the state’s account of it.”
Gomeroi poet and law academic Alison Whitaker wrote a master’s thesis on the language used in coroners courts, and how it obscures culpability and accountability, hindering black families’ chances of ‘justice’. The coroner’s courts use language as “shorthand to reject allegations of brutality or inhumanity”. This piece in The Guardian on her research is critically important:
“While families whose loved ones died inside lamented that their loved one was on trial, coroners saw those dragged before them as tragic and deserving figures, fated to die of “natural causes”. Coroners, in their long careers examining death, are trained to look for biomedical models. It is unremarkable that they find that most deaths inside are from natural causes. What they and we often fail to see is how designating a death as natural commonly misrepresents how someone died inside, implying that nothing caused or contributed to it.”
In addition to this, Amanda Porter and Eddie Cubillo co-authored a piece in The Conversation about the myths that are often said of black deaths in custody:
“Misinformation about deaths in custody has the potential to retraumatise the families and communities of people who have died in custody. Bereaved families often have to live through the pain of losing loved ones knowing they were innocent, did nothing wrong and in some cases should never have been arrested.
This grief is compounded by the knowledge that many of these deaths were preventable, and there is little chance anyone will be held accountable for them.