Thousands gathered in Sydney and other Australian cities over the weekend in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and an increased focus of the mistreatment of First Nations people.
A month since Australia’s first such rallies, the crowds were smaller amid health warnings about the spread of the coronavirus, as infections grow in the state of Victoria,.
At the Sydney protest, masks and hand sanitiser were given out and organisers pleaded with people to maintain social distance. An ancient Aboriginal smoking ceremony took place, as the families of those who died in police custody circled it.
Protests in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth and other cities the previous day drew smaller crowds.
Protesters demanded justice for the families of people killed in custody and an end to the high incarceration rate of First Nations. Since the royal commission, there have been 437 Black deaths in custody, The Guardian reports.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2% of the national population but they constitute 27% of the national prison population, according to the Australian Law Reform Commission 133: Pathways to Justice report. This makes First Nations Australians the most incarcerated people in the world.
On Facebook, rally organisers stated that they want “urgent moves to release people from prison and have community based solutions.” They’re also campaigning for youth prisons to be shut down and for reforms to child protection policies, as First Nations children are 10.6 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.
The greater global awareness over the treatment of minorities as a result of Black Lives Matter comes as Australia holds an inquiry into mining giant Rio Tinto’s destruction of two ancient and sacred Aboriginal caves.
Reuters contributed to this report.