Narelda Jacobs speaks on Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia

Studio 10 host and broadcaster Narelda Jacobs has given a powerful statement on Indigenous deaths in custody.

In light of the protests spreading across the US in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Jacobs, an Indigenous woman and member of the LGBTIQ+ community, urged Australians to take a look at our own problem with racism.

“A lot of people over the weekend, I’ve heard them say ‘lucky we live in Australia’, and I quickly thought well, it’s not so lucky for some 420 families who have had loved ones die in custody since 1991 in Australia,” Jacobs began, drawing attention to the number of Aboriginal deaths in police custody since the end of 1991’s royal commission on the issue.

“I need to say that I have the utmost respect for police, I have the utmost respect for authorities in general, because they’re keeping us safe and they’ve seen us through the pandemic. It’s important though, that we don’t live under a cloud, or we don’t bury our heads in the sand, and we’re not ignorant. We need to be aware of the country that we live in, and it’s not perfect.”

Jacobs noted the cases of two police officers currently charged with murder, including the 2019 shooting of Geraldton’s Joyce Clark.

“Her family called police to help them, as the last resort to help… she had mental health issues, she had just been released from prison, she was known to police and authorities… they shot her dead.”

Responding to fellow host Sarah Harris, Jacobs said Aboriginal people have a history of not trusting police, no doubt in part due to no past murder convictions for officers involved with Indigenous deaths in custody.

Jacobs says for change to be made, coroners needs to give their recommendations to change the systemic nature of protecting police from facing consequences, citing the case of David Dungay.

Dungay died in 2015 after being moved between cells at Long Bay prison for refusing to stop eating a packet of biscuits, at the hands of five officers. He told officers “I can’t breathe” 12 times.

“The coronial inquest found that none of those prison guards should be held criminally responsible, they weren’t trained very well, that they weren’t malicious, that they didn’t intend to harm him, but they called for changes to their training regime.”

Speaking during Reconciliation Week, Jacobs said the current political discourse is an opportunity to come together.

“We have the chance to respect one another, and to treat each other not for the colour of their skin, but the way you would want to be treated, and that’s all we can hope for.”

Watch the full clip below.

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