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Message from the Chair

Dear Members and Colleagues, 

In this edition, WWDACT sends all the ACT community a message of peace and respect. We have watched news footage of the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on 26 May and have seen the outpouring of solidarity across the world, calling for an end to violence against Afro-American men and women in America and people of colour everywhere. Many of us shown our solidarity in some way. Black Lives Matter.

Has it been a big enough wake-up call for us all in Australia? 

We know that Black Lives Matter here too. Proportionally, we need to own up to our bigger problem. And that goes for those who purport to lead our nation. We mourn the #432 black men, women and children who have died in police custody since 1991, the very year that the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was published. This is not something we can dismiss as an American phenomenon, and ‘Thank goodness we live in Australia, eh?’. 

Once again – it is everyone’s responsibility not to be a bystander when we see violence of any kind. Racism – it stops with me!

Thanks to those who were able to march here in Canberra on Saturday 6 June. Many of us were not able to be there. But it was possible to make an individual protest by holding 4 minutes and 32 seconds of silent vigil at 4:32pm in honour of those who have died in Australia, and to pledge to be part of the national solution. 

In particular WWDACT focuses on the high proportion of Indigenous women in prison, including women with cognitive impairment and chronic mental illness. In the Profile of Women in Prison in NSW Report, published on 31 March 2020, it has been called one of the most challenging human rights issues facing Australia. In the criminal justice system in NSW, almost one third of those incarcerated are Indigenous, up to 10 times their proportion in the general population. Most are on remand for up to two months for non payment of fines. Most are released without charge.

Poverty, family violence, abuse and trauma are often background factors. Too often these women are released to homelessness. About 80% of Indigenous women in prison are mothers, so that there is a knock-on effect on children, families and communities. Imprisonment increases the risk that children will be put into child protection, and entrenches the disadvantage for another generation. So, unless socio economic factors are addressed the rates of recidivism will also remain high. Action is needed in the ACT as well as in NSW.

Let us look forward to making Black Lives Matter in the weeks ahead.

Yours in solidarity, 

Sue Salthouse

Chair, WWDACT.