An initiative ofIndigenous Social Justice Action& Friends
From: Ray Jackson Subject: rally 12.30pm 12/10 central courts complex ISJA and other activist supporters will be rallying on friday 12/10 at 12.30pm outside the central courts in liverpool street, between George and Pitt streets.
the reason for the rally is to support the Briscoe family in their continuing struggle for justice. the media report below explains in clear detail the reason we are holding the rally.
whilst we support the coroner's and nt government's wishes to reduce alcohol abuse in the nt, such controls are only being racially aimed at the aborigines residing in the nt but not at the many drunken tourists and non-aboriginal residents of the nt.
though coroner greg cavanagh in his inquest was absolutely scathing of the police brutality of the assaults perpetrated against mr briscoe, along with a criminal lack of duty of care during his time in the alice springs police station prior to his unnecessary death, as the attached report explains, no police officer was charged with the death of mr. briscoe.
yes, mr briscoe was in a total inebriated state and he was picked up for protective custody for the 32nd time but does this not surely underline the failure of the nt system, whether clp or labor, to assist alcoholics to overcome their debilitating health problems. alcoholism is not an aboriginal problem. it is a social health problem for all stratum of society. it has been shown time and time again that, percentage-wise, more non-aborigines drink than do aborigines. we do, however, have too many extremely heavy drinkers who are much more public with their day to day illness.
the nt floats on alcohol and drinking is the order of the day and/or night. some drinking holes in alice springs open what they term as the animal bars for aboriginal drinkers. a few hours later they are shut and the drinkers are then forced to buy take-away alcohol at highly inflated prices when compared to the draught ale. the nt government and alice springs council know that there are way too many alcohol outlets but argue that alice springs is a tourist town and cannot shut any of the outlets down. they can and they should but what needs to be done is to fully recognise that continual inebriation is an illness and must be treated as such.
there is a great need for sobering up centres and a policy of taking the person home if it is safe for the family to be done. rehab centres also must be built to assist the drinker to overcome his or her illness. all these centres are just not for aborigines but for all problem drinkers. police cells should not be used, the person should, as the coroner kept repeating, be taken to the hospital. shutting down the animal bars would be a good start. i admit to being ok with mandatory rehabilitation for both alcohol and drugs but only after everything else has been tried. i have travelled in that glass canoe to nowhere but i was able to stop drinking some 25 years ago but some of our brothers and sisters are not that strong and will need assistance but it is not merely a government decision, it must be done in full collaboration with the elders or significant others who can speak for the communities and families.
the current stronger futures act does not give us hope that this will happen but we must at least continue to call for it.
another problem we must continue to call for it to be stopped is the usual practice of non-aboriginal australia of blaming the victim. such practices have been foisted upon our people for over 200 years and all it has done is pushed us further into the muck and mire of racism and wasted billions of dollars.
as i stated earlier, coroner cavanagh constantly berated the nt police officers and their criminal attitude towards those to whom they have a duty of care and yet made no recommendation that any of the ten officers on duty that night who proved to be demonstrably negligent were found by him to be worthy of his legal consideration. previous recommendations that he had made in other death in custody cases were either ignored or, if implemented, had been dismantled by the nt police commissioner as being too costly or, in his opinion, unnecessary. such blind ignorance only leads to further deaths in custody.
my argument here is fully supported by the words of george newhouse, of the australian lawyers alliance, who made representations to the coroner on behalf of the family of mr briscoe. see attachment.
george is quite right in his particularly well chosen words that come down to the point that until the system gets fair dinkum in investigating and adjudicating death in custody events in the full glare of the legal spotlight whereby the custodial systems and the officers who work within them are to be held as accountable for their actions as every other citizen of this country, then and only then will we ever get real justice and not continuing whitewashes.
when mark burgess, ceo of the australian police federation, at a recent forum gloated that mr. briscoe had died as a result of a health problem, i challenged him on that interpretation but, on reflection, he was right to say that. what he also should have added however is that the death of mr briscoe was brutally exacerbated by the actions and non-actions of the police on duty that fateful night. but the system is also to blame for not recognising that mr briscoe had an alcohol problem and should have initiated assistance for him when he was picked up the 15th time, the 20th time, the 25th time. how morally blind is our system that they so easily refuse to recognise their duty of care to its citizens, regardless of race or colour.
we fully support the briscoe family in their call to stop the humiliating and derisory attempt to push the blame for his death onto the victim. the death of mr briscoe, indeed, was a health problem but it was also a racist police problem as much as it was a problem of extraordinary proportions for a racist government and the society that they govern.
we call on the chief minister to drop the blame the victim game and concentrate on looking at the problem holistically. look at your racist police. look at your failing health systems and look deeply into the aboriginal communities and restore the federal government monies that all nt governments have fraudulently stolen from those communities. i know it will come as a surprise to you, chief minister, but our people also have answers but have they been invited to address the issues? we are all part of the problem so it needs to be worked out together.
come join us at the rally to support the briscoe family and the call for justice.
ray jackson president indigenous social justice association