Anthropologist, Geographer and Foundation Chair of Australian indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne Marcia Langton delivers an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Wednesday, September 25, 2019. (Lukas Coch)
Anthropologist, Geographer and Foundation Chair of Australian indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne Marcia Langton delivers an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Wednesday, September 25, 2019. (Lukas Coch)

Government lashed over deaths in custody

PROFESSOR Marcia Langton OA has denounced a disparity between the community’s and the government’s perception of aboriginal deaths in custody, during a powerful 2020 Thea Astley address.

The address was titled Black Lives Matter.

“It seems that every generation needs to be told why Black Lives Matter. Here we are again,” she said.

“The rates of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody, the arrest and incarceration of aboriginal adults and children have reached the level of a national crisis,” she said.

“This is the view of many indigenous people, Human Rights advocates, many in the legal fraternity and thousands of citizens.

“It is not the view, however, of the political leadership in Australian governments.

“Even the most reasonable reforms have been rejected.”

She mentioned the Council of Australian Governments’ delay of a decision to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years as an example of this.

Prof Langton draw a parallel between Thea Astley’s book The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow — about a white boss on Palm Island who goes on a shooting rampage that includes murdering his own children — with the 2004 Palm Island death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, an Aboriginal resident of the island, on Friday, November 19, 2004.

“At this point in time the numbers (of Aboriginal deaths in custody) exceed 400, and they are probably closer to 500 since the Royal Commission commenced in 1989,” she said.

The anthropologist, geographer and Foundation Chair of Australian indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne was due to offer this year’s The Astley Address in Byron Bay last weekend as part of the Byron Writers Festival 2020.

As the festival was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, the address was released as a podcast.

Listen to the podcast here:

The 2020 Thea Astley Address, entitled Black Lives Matter, was supported by The Conversation and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

Another 16 other podcasts have been published this week by the Byron Bay Writers Festival, including conversations between writers Jean Kittson with Mandy Nolan, Vivian Pham with Cath Keenan, Christos Tsiolkas with Malcolm Knox and Annika Smethurst with Sunil Badami.