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Cities across Australia joined in protest over the government’s sub-par response to shocking videos of institutionalized child abuse at a detention facility –the latest in Australia’s dark record of racist treatment of Aboriginals.
A harrowing video emerged that was shot at the Don Dale facility near Darwin, showing an Aboriginal boy in a prison being strapped to a chair by three guards, tied everywhere, including by the neck. He also had a bag tied over his head, blinding and suffocating him, and was subsequently stripped. The footage sent shockwaves through the UN and elsewhere, but appeared to generate a much weaker response from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who stopped short of launching a national enquiry, deciding a smaller investigation would do.
This quickly led to snap protests countrywide, with 700 people flooding the streets of Melbourne on Saturday, July 30, 2016, and similar protests seen across the country’s other major cities. According to Reuters, 300 people rallied in Sydney. Protests were also held in Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, and Darwin. The demonstrations were joined by prominent public figures like the Indigenous Australian rapper Adam Briggs, as part of a movement organized by the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance group, which calls for an end to child detention and brutal practices. “You can see once again how vulnerable our people are at the hands of the state”, activist Jenny Munro told attendees gathered in front of Sydney Town Hall, as cited by the Guardian. “We need to understand the deep north and the deep west of this country. The racism in the territory and in the west is in your face every day”. Joining her was New South Wales MP David Shoebridge, who called the incarceration of aboriginal youths a “national shame” that strayed outside of the reputation plagued Northern Territory.
A moving letter from one of the victims, Dylan Voller, was also read to the demonstrators, in which he asked them to be peaceful. “Dylan Voller has asked us to thank everybody for their demonstrations of support. However, he wants to send a special message to any protesters. Dylan wants all protesters to refrain from any violent or threatening behavior”, the organizers said while reading his statement.
Despite a Royal Commission hearing held shortly after ABC’s investigation into abuse that many thought was long past, people are angry about just how little it has achieved and is willing to do to end ill treatment of aboriginal communities for good. The commission has been accused of having short reach and been criticized by indigenous leaders from the Northern Territory, who say they were not consulted during the investigation. Northern Territory senator Nigel Scullion offered an apology on Saturday for being blind to the abuses going on in his state while having regular contact with the Indigenous communities there. Joining in the condemnation of the torture-like conditions was the United Nations Human Rights High Commission, whose statement read : “We are shocked by the video footage that has emerged from Don Dale youth detention center in the Northern Territory… We call on the authorities to identify those who committed abuses against the children and to hold them responsible for such acts... Compensation should also be provided”.