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Yamaji community rally bring positive results

by Joyce Capewell 10 December 2013


esterday’s peaceful rally in Geraldton did indeed prove to be bringing positive results for the Yamaji People. This rally was one of a series of rallies held in Geraldton since the hit and run deaths of Christine ‘Pie’ Ryan and Horace ‘Ossie’ Bydner in Geraldton on October 5. These tragically painful and avoidable deaths unified a normally fractured Yamaji community through protest. Had we Yamajis not stood up for justice for Pie and Ossie we believe the non- Aboriginal offender would not have been made

Joyce Capewell with one of the banners she held during the rally in Geraldton yesterday. Image: Charmaine Green.

accountable for his hideous actions, to the extent he is now. This non-Aboriginal offender who ran over two of our people whilst drunk, took off and left them to die, is walking around free as a bird, on a measly $5000 bail. There is no doubting in the State of Western Australia that if the offender was Aboriginal and drunk at the time of the accident and the victims white, the judge hearing his case would’ve thrown the book at him. He would most definitely have been incarcerated immediately, presumed guilty and taken out to

the horrid Greenough Regional Prison. However, since the series of loud and very public rallies have taken place now for several months, the charges for the offender have been upgraded. The media coverage to help our cause was a pleasing result, with the local TV stations and paper covering the story objectively. The local police, Geraldton courthouse officials and Yamaji Community members - myself included - spent a great deal of time and effort mediating to achieve order and positive outcomes of all Page 1

rallies, including the one yesterday. The last rally did however involve accusations from law enforcement agencies of property damage caused by protesters. In hindsight, whilst not admitting to any property damage from our protesters, there was a great deal of anger and frustration at the leniency of the bail condition initially imposed on the offender. It was only natural that high emotion surfaced at what we all considered to be pure discrimination from the judicial officer presiding over the case. I challenge anyone to stand idle and accept the judge’s decision if Pie or Ossie were their child, or parent, brother or sister; would they not let off a bit of steam in anger? As a result of these rallies we are

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Above and next page: Geraldton Aboriginal community members and family members of the two victims of the hit and run road incident. All images: Charmaine Green

seeking much required changes to the justice system - this including the so called Government DCS system, the courts and police procedures. Everyone has the opportunity to air their concerns with regards to the discriminatory practices of the court system to our people. Today, stories of recent police brutality treatment was aired. After the rally I immediately took these concerns to the new Geraldton Police Inspector Whitely. Inspector Whitely is approachable and she displays genuine concern to the plight of Yamaji Peoples. She informed me she takes these complaints seriously and will certainly investigate, when

the complaints are officially made, of police brutality against Yamaji People. We had open and frank discussions on how the Yamaji community and police can work towards improving trust and respect with each other without the high level of mistrust and hate shown of late. Having a son who was an policeman, and a brother who is a Police Sergeant currently stationed at the local Geraldton Police Station as well as other extended family members who are in the police force and some DCS officers, I have a good understanding and objective perspective of both sides.

Admittedly race relations, especially police and Aboriginal relations, will not change overnight, but perseverance and mutual respect are key factors we must all work to achieving. Inspector Whitely is very much in favour of Aboriginal support people attending the lock-up and assisting prisoners when in custody. Unfortunately the WA Government isn’t as advanced on these issues despite us Yamaji people screaming out for an Aboriginal visitors scheme for the horrid GRP and the Geraldton lock-up for over two years. Yamaji People are also very concerned with regards to the poor racist operations coming from within the Greenough Regional Prison and are demanding the Western Australian Government see to this, and also rectify the racist operations in the DCS broadly.

The Greenough Prisons poor track record of seven Deaths in Custody (four of which I have attended) and numerous attempted suicides (too many to count) is a grave concern to our community, especially so after the near fatal attempted suicide of two young Yamaji brothers - who were denied AVS assistance. The WA Government DCS system is lacking greatly with the provision of adequate appropriate culture awareness suicide prevention assistance to Aboriginal prisoners. WA prisoners are now being denied funeral attendances, even with regards to immediate family members such as prisoner’s mothers, fathers and siblings; another inhumane act - of unconscionable racist proportion - from the WA Government DCS system. Apparently this is to save money;

the Government needs to save money by looking at other cheaper culturally appropriate alternatives for dealing with Aboriginal People. It costs thousands of dollars to keep a person incarcerated - but at what cost if they don’t address their immediate needs whilst inside that inevitably leads to and foster the high rate of recidivism to continue unabated? The Yamaji Community and others will keep on rallying until positive changes for our People are made by the WA Government. They need to act on our requests or be prepared to hear our raised voices in protest for years to come. One thing the government needs to be aware of is the ability of loud black protests against racist government policies to win over public opinion. Public opinion can and will change governments.

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Yamaji community rally bring positive results  

Yesterday’s peaceful rally in Geraldton did indeed prove to be bringing positive results for the Yamaji People. This rally was one of a seri...

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