Before we dispatch let us refer you to The Sydney Review of Books and a remarkable essay by Ali Cobby Eckermann titled “The place of Terrorism in Australia” If you’ve not read a single dispatch then this essay is for you. If you’ve read every dispatch then this essay is for you. This immensely sensitive writer, artist and poet yet again trains the blow-torch of inquisition on the soft underbelly of white Australia’s racism. (Tomorrow we publish more from Ali’s award winning work “Ruby Moonlight”.
Read today’s dispatch, read Ali’s essay and sleep soundly. If you can.
Now for today’s dispatch, which is Poor Fellow My Country. Originally dispatched on 17 August 2015
Japanangka was arrested for “drinking in public” and subsequently died on 21st May. Excerpts from the Coroner’s report:
“…died in a Darwin Police watch house cell, on a concrete bench with two strangers he had been housed with that evening…”
“…He was not causing any disruption before or during his arrest and at all times he was polite and cooperative…”
“…although the offence carried no term of imprisonment, Kumanjayi was handcuffed in public, placed in an iron cage in the back of a police van, transported away from family and friends, presented at the watch house counter with his arms still handcuffed behind his back, searched, deprived of his property, sat down and made to take his shoes and socks off and detained for some hours in a cell built to house criminals…”
“…In the last years of his life Kumanjayi didn’t work. He was always sitting down with the old people, having a cup of tea and talking to them. He also spent time with the young people. He would sit under the tree and the young people would see him and come and sit down. He talked to them and shared stories that had been told to him. We would call this tree, “the tree of knowledge.”…”
The “tree of knowledge” is less than thirty metres west from where I sit writing this. It is a large Athel Pine, classified In accordance with the Weeds Management Act as a: Class A weed “to be eradicated in all areas of the NT”. Where it stands, the possibility of it spreading are zilch. Over the years we have saved it several times from the tree police.
Six weeks before Japanangka died I introduced him (under the “tree of knowledge”) to a tourist called Joshua. Japanangka told Joshua about the Battle of Jericho in some detail. When I emailed Joshua about Japanangka’s death he replied: “What a sad news… he was such a gentle and knowledgeable person. I’m so sorry to hear this… “ This after a short single meeting.
The NT News under the headline “Booze law not to blame: AG”, reports that the NT Attorney General “has rebuffed criticism from the NT Coroner over his government’s controversial Alcohol Mandatory Treatment policy and paperless arrest laws saying two indigenous people who died in custody would have otherwise died in the “gutter”. What gutter would that be? [Remember? “…transported away from family and friends… “]
The AG is furthermore quoted as saying:
“…was brought to Darwin to receive medical attention but instead went on a “taxpayer funded binge”. “Over the last 50 years the Australian community has shown enormous good will towards Aboriginal people” “Despite enormous efforts…little has improved…” “Aboriginal lives will not improve until they , like anybody else, choose to improve their own lives individually”
In the Alice Springs News a prominent Alice Springs councillor wrote a lengthy comment criticising the Coroner. An excerpt:
“…the same kind of thinking that in the past has seen serious offenders, murderers, rapists, receiving lenient sentences and returned home to communities simply because they were of that origin without the slightest regard for the hellish effect that outcome had on those trying to live a normal peaceful civilized life within those communities.
The Coroner is requesting the removal of paperless arrest because they capture more Aboriginal people than other Community members, this apparently being discriminatory and divisive. Has it occurred I wonder to the Coroner, that these same laws may also “protect” more Aboriginal people, more women and kids from the results of drunken behavior?…”
[Remember?: “He was not causing any disruption before or during his arrest”]
These are the attitudes of those that have the power over and control life in the Northern Territory.
To paraphrase Xavier Herbert: “Poor Fellow my Territory”
Amazing Grace… how sweet the sound…