As protests continue across the United States following the police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd, many Indigenous Australians say there are similarities between the US and Australia when it comes to black people’s deaths at the hands of police.
Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr said “I can’t breathe” 12 times before he died while being held down by five prison guards in December 2015.
After seeing footage of the US protests over the past few days, the Dunghutti man’s family have said “more people are starting to realise the injustices against Black people and against First Nations people everywhere”.
“I want to send a message of solidarity to everyone on the streets in the United States fighting for justice for George Floyd,” David’s nephew Paul Silva wrote in an online post. “I really feel for the family of George Floyd and want them to know we feel their pain and stand with them.
“When I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered, I had to stop the footage. It took me straight back to when I first saw the video of my uncle’s death.”
Later in the post he addressed the injustices Black people and First Nations people in countries other than the US often face.
“The masses of people on the streets in the United States calling for justice is amazing. That is the only force that can hold the police accountable. More people are starting to realise the injustices against Black people and against First Nations people everywhere,” he wrote.
‘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.
“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.
The deaths of First Nations people in custody has recently worsened, The Guardian reports.
Cases include David Dungay Jr as well as Kumanjayi Walker who died after being shot in the Northern Territory community of Yuendumu in November 2019. A police officer has since been charged with murder over the death of the 19-year-old man.
“In these situations, families have called upon the police for their help and a loved one has died,” said Narelda.
On Monday morning Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the footage of a police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was “upsetting and terrible”.
“As upsetting and terrible that the murder that took place - and it is shocking, that also just made me cringe - I just think to myself how wonderful a country is Australia,” he told 2GB.
“There’s no need to import things happening in other countries here to Australia,” he added, cautioning locals against similar violent protests. “Australia is not the United States.”
Responding to the PM’s comments, Narelda said, “I agree with him that we have amazing leadership in Australia.
“We have seen very fiery and passionate protests from Aboriginal people over the decades but I think once the anger is quashed by some really inspiring things people say, then we leave it up to the policymakers to work behind the scenes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“But the thing that is really disheartening is that it does happen again.
“And all we can just hope is that after every time someone is killed in custody, that we learn from it,” she said referring to “recommendations handed down by coroners”.
“In situations that may not lead to criminal charges, at least we have a raft of changes that police forces across the country then have to go about enacting and enforcing.”