These poems were written in January 2016, at the request of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, to support a campaign for awareness about the death of Ms Dhu in police custody in South Hedland in August 2014.
The poems are posted here with permission from Aunty Carol Roe, via Ethan Blue.
Today the coroner has handed down her findings and recommendations. She stated that MS Dhu received "inhumane treatment" from the police concerned, and that her death was preventable.
According to one news source, the coroner
"found the conduct of the medical staff and police officers involved was well below the standards expected".
While it's clear to anyone reading the coroner's findings just what level of neglect and indifference prevented Ms Dhu receiving the care to which she was entitled, we are baffled as to the unaccountability of police (and medical staff) in this case.
The Guardian reports that a Senior Constable was
"issued an assistant commissioner's warning notice after an internal police investigation for the 'lack of urgency' she showed after Dhu hit her head, and 10 other officers were given disciplinary notices for failing to correctly follow lockup procedure. Most told the inquest they did not understand the notice and did not know why they had been disciplined."
How long can this sort of inhumanity toward Aboriginal people go on?
In reproducing the following two poems, we wish to express our heartfelt support for Ms Dhu's family and our desire to see justice for Ms Dhu's memory.
A daughter begins so small but soon
outgrows her mother
bigger than love can keep hold of
from bud to blossom
and even thorn
we’ve no control of
Out in the world, the future
Yet to a mother,
a father, she’s forever
– some part of her –
that little slip they watched over
We want respect for her
When she cries out we want to come to her
or for others to do the same if we can’t be there
Not the cold shoulder, the sneer
the hard voice out of nowhere
that says Faking it
Not the indifferent she’ll-be-right, the failure
to listen when someone says pain
is ten out of ten, what can it mean
if she’s treated like nobody’s daughter?
What sort of blight are we under?
In Marapikurrinya: for Ms Dhu
The uniforms won’t listen, ore heaped up,
long steel ships waiting to take country
away. They refuse to see themselves,
boots and all, march away
from all spirits. They laugh at body,
they laugh at words, but they
have no idea they are dead-in-themselves,
their faces dressed up for the cameras.
They kill with impunity. They are designed
that way. In another lock-up, I have
seen the body of a young Noongah bloke
tossed like a hessian sack, his bones
all busted, and the ring-a-ring-a-rosie
circle laughing and saying you deserve
what you get. The uniforms denied he was
in there, inside his own body. The sounds
that crept out were television – they all watched
American cop shows. It’s all there for them –
the land dressed up as state or nation:
they fancy their long arms reaching out,
they fancy their long arms reaching
across tribal boundaries, heaping it all
into the belly of those long ships
or into trucks or train. To furnaces.
Stretching fences across stone and sand
and far into sea? Their magnificent
jurisdiction of brutality. They are their
own totems. They worship their ‘order’.
I know that port. I have been in a house
where Nyangumarta and Yamaji
came together listening to Coloured Stone
and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
And stories were told then, back
then, as the death-toll rises and those
hunting parties of the Old North
find their latest manifestation.
This reaches out to you, Ms Dhu,
and to all those from past and present
who hold you close, who won’t see
you lost in the files of the ‘deceased’.
You will outlive them all.
You will hold back the uniforms
from striking more and more of your people down.
You will be the beginning. You will never end.