Indigenous Australian television host Brooke Boney has spoken about her own family’s experience with police brutality after Black man George Floyd’s death in the US, and recent footage of a white Sydney police officer slamming an Aboriginal teenager to the ground.
The ‘Today’ show presenter, who is a proud Gamilaroi woman, told viewers on Wednesday that she has “seen stuff like this my whole life” after growing up in a housing commission in Muswellbrook in NSW’s Hunter Valley area.
“What we are seeing there is the lived experience of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There wouldn’t be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who hasn’t been affected by this sort of violence, by deaths in custody and been deeply affected by the pictures coming out of the US,” she said.
The media personality recalled an incident a few years ago where she saw her grandfather approached by police with physical force.
“I know that sometimes police are heavy-handed when it comes to Aboriginal people. One of the experiences that I had at the footy a few years ago...” she said on the Channel 9 breakfast TV show.
“The police frogmarched my 72-year-old grandfather out. Every single one of us thought he was going to die, either of a heart attack or they would do something to him.
“They said he was being drunk and disorderly. My grandfather doesn’t drink. Tell me if that would happen to any of your grandfathers? It wouldn’t,” she said, addressing some of her non-Indigenous co-stars.
‘Studio 10’ television presenter Narelda Jacobs, whose father is a Whadjuk Nyoongar man, said many Indigenous Australians have placed trust in police, but “on a number of occasions, it’s not gone to plan”.
“As much as we have had those trust issues with police, I think Aboriginal people really do still respect authority because at the end of the day we expect them to make us feel safe and we do call upon them to make us feel safe,” Narelda told HuffPost Australia on Monday.
“But on a number of occasions, it’s not gone to plan and on a number occasions when family have phoned police to help out the situation, people have ended up dead.”
The Guardian’s special 2018 Deaths Inside report used 10 years of coronial data to find that 407 Indigenous Australians had died in police care since the end of 1991’s royal commission.
A junior constable is being investigated by police after footage went viral of him using force to arrest a 17-year-old in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
Speaking on 2GB radio on Tuesday, Commissioner Mick Fuller said the police could have “handled the situation better” but the officer, to his knowledge, has not had prior blemishes against his name.
“The fact that this officer doesn’t have a chequered history and he’s been in for three and a half years,” he said.
“You would have to say he’s had a bad day and I’m sure most of the community wouldn’t want to see someone sacked after making such a commitment to the community.”
Since George Floyd, a Black man, died in Minnesota after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, cities across the US and world have protested against police brutality and racial inequality.
A Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney saw a turnout of thousands on Tuesday, as Australians rallied in solidarity with protesters in the US but also to raise awareness of Australia’s own history with police killings.