To mark the 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 2016, the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee and Curtin University are calling for poems on deaths in custody, whether commemorating an individual who has died in custody or exploring why Aboriginal people continue to be imprisoned at disproportionate rates. In 1983, 16-year-old John Pat died in custody in Roebourne jail of injuries inflicted by five off-duty police officers. This was a formative moment for the movement to end deaths in custody. Since the Royal Commission, there have been more than three hundred Aboriginal deaths in custody. Rates of imprisonment are worse for Aboriginal women and even more so for Aboriginal juveniles. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Western Australia. On 4 August 2014 a young Aboriginal woman, 22-year-old Ms Dhu, died in the Port Hedland lockup after being imprisoned for unpaid fines.
This call for poems is supported by Aunty Carol Roe, grandmother of Ms Dhu. Click on the heading above to read poems from John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan.