We are NATSILS, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. We represent all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services around the country. We are proud to be owned and operated by our people and for our people and we need your help.
Our work is grounded in justice, human rights, healing, and truth-telling. It’s time to tell the truth.
The devastating effects of colonisation, family separation and racism, have pushed our people to be the most imprisoned people on earth which means we’re also more likely to die in police or prison custody. Aboriginal women are the fastest-growing prison population, and almost all of our people in prison are themselves victims of violence.
Next year it will be 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its findings. The Royal Commission was meant to put an end to Black deaths in custody but the Commission’s findings are still gathering dust, and 437 of us have died in police or prison cells since.
We have been told by politicians, bureaucrats, and other decision-makers to wait for change, that justice and progress takes time, but how much more time do we need to wait? No one has been held accountable for our deaths in custody or for the daily police violence we endure.
Waiting has taken the lives of 437 of us. We aren’t willing to wait anymore.
We need your help. We are a small (but mighty!) organisation. We do not have the funds for the extensive campaigning and advocacy that is needed to end Black deaths in custody in this country.
We are asking for your financial support to continue the vital and critical work we do for our communities. With your support, we can work with and support the families devastated by these tragic deaths, amplify their voices and together campaign for an end to Black deaths in custody. We won’t leave another family behind in grief because of the death of their loved one in a police or prison cell.
With your support, we will hire a dedicated Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander campaigner and advocate to work closely with the families who have had their loved ones die in custody. They would jointly create a campaign to end Black deaths in custody that is led by those most affected: the families left behind. Money raised will also support the families to be involved.
Prisons are not safe or effective. We are haunted by the images of the hooding and gassing of children at Don Dale, to the damning footage uncovered through so many black deaths in custody coronial inquests.
We have the solutions to ending Black deaths and the over imprisoning of our people. Our solutions are based on decarceration, self-determination, community-control, accountability and true justice for our people. We want better access to Custody Notification Services, more culturally safe support for families and women and survivors of violence, appropriate housing and social safety nets, higher age of criminal responsibility, police accountability, alternatives to imprisonment, and ending abuse and human rights violations in custody. We want to see all of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations implemented.
We have waited long enough, we will not wait any longer.
We have been watching what’s happening in the United States with sadness and solidarity. In Australia, a handful of politicians have tried to distance us from what’s happening there. This is wrong, Australia is no better - we need to tell the truth.
Currently, there are two police officers awaiting trial for the murder of Aboriginal people who have been fatally shot. But there has never been a conviction for a black death in custody.
With your financial support, we can tell the truth that needs to be told: that in Australia no police officer has ever been convicted for the death of our people in their custody. In fact, police are more likely to be promoted than charged.
Together, we can advocate for accountability for Black deaths and for a justice system based on the strengths of our culture, of healing, and of truth-telling. With your donation, we can ramp up our campaign to end Black deaths in custody by implementing all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
At this moment, we are being heard more than ever. Help us tell the truth by donating to our cause. Every last cent you give will be used to dismantle the gross injustices that have already killed so many of us.
We are not willing to wait any longer.
- Gillian Haines
- Rachel Merlo