There has been enormous national and international coverage of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign in recent weeks. Professor Michelle Trudgett (Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Strategy and Consultation), the University’s Library, and the Office of Equity and Diversity have worked together to create opportunities for students and staff to demonstrate their support and better understand the issues driving the BLM movement in Australia. One way to get involved is by signing the Western Sydney University Black Lives Matter Pledge. See the University’s invitation to sign the pledge to stand against racism and show your support for the campaign.
The library is curating a new collection of resources for Western students and staff on critical issues underpinning the Australian BLM campaign, including films, books and academic literature.
The BLM began in 2013 in response to the acquittal of a police officer who was charged with the death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, an African American man. The movement soon stretched to Australia with several marches held over the last few years – including the recent mass protests across Australia. Parallels between the BLM cases in the United States and Australia are at the heart of the local protests demonstrating against police brutality towards people of colour – namely Indigenous people in the Australian context.
The Australian Law Reform Commissioni recently retraced Australia’s own tragic history in this area. It described a long legacy of disproportionate Indigenous incarceration rates, avoidable Indigenous deaths in custody, and a litany of legal and justice system
discriminations against Indigenous Australians, including poor relations with and treatment by Australian police.
In 1991, there was a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custodyii (RCIADIC). The RCIADIC report provided 339 recommendations outlining methods to eradicate Indigenous deaths in custody, lower the incarceration rates, and redress inherent biases in the justice system. Almost 30 years later, as shown by a recent review by Deloitte’s Access Economicsiii, these recommendations are yet to be fully implemented. It is reported that there has now been up to a further 437 Indigenous deaths in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission reportiv .
Western Sydney University supports efforts to advance Indigenous self-determination and recognises the urgent need to do so, as recommended by the RCIADIC. Western Sydney University also extends its support to the BLM campaign. Our sincerest condolences are extended to the families and friends of the many Indigenous people who have died whilst in custody.
We are a University that deeply values and respects the cultural diversity of our students and staff. Through the sharing of culture, stories and knowledge we continue to learn from one another. As an academic community, we also seek to work with Indigenous people and others to act to tackle the persistent tragedy of Indigenous deaths in custody, the scourge of Indigenous incarceration, and the many biases within the justice and legal systems. At Western Sydney University, Indigenous staff, students and elders are valued and respected members of our community. We thank them for their ongoing contributions and request that in these challenging times, and beyond, we come together in solidarity and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to Indigenous Australians and other people of colour who are subjected to racism. It is important to acknowledge that conversations relating to Indigenous deaths in custody can cause serious emotional distress and subsequently impact the health and wellbeing of our Indigenous staff and students. It is therefore requested that we approach the issue with utmost care and consideration. As an institution we actively practice zero tolerance of racism and endeavour to ensure that all staff and students are well informed on human rights including the BLM initiative.
i Australian Law Reform Commission. (2017). Pathways to Justice-an Inquiry Into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Australian Law Reform Commission.
iii Economics, D. A. (2018). Review of the implementation of the Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
iv https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2020/06/12/point-recap-royal-commission-aboriginal-deaths-custodyreview- juukan-gorgehttps://theconversation.com/despite-432-indigenous-deaths-in-custody-since-1991-no-one-has-ever-beenconvicted- racist-silence-and-complicity-are-to-blame-139873
COMMIT TO THE BLACK LIVES MATTER PLEDGE
We invite students and staff to join us in pledging support for this campaign. We must come together to enact positive changes in our society.
Yes, I will sign up!
By signing up to the Western Sydney University Black Lives Matter pledge you are making a commitment to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Australians and people of colour. You are publicly committing to calling out racism when you see it and will actively seek to remedy social injustices.
Please complete the below form to take the pledge.
Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).
By clicking submit, you have signed up to the Western Sydney University Black Lives Matter Pledge and agree to have your Name, Title and School/Institute/Division listed on the Western Sydney Black Lives Matter Pledge Signatories web page.
If you would like to know more, please contact Melinda Blackmore, Office of Equity and Diversity (opens in a new window)