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Aunty of deaths in custody victim speaks out against Stronger Futures 21-3-12

Stop the Intervention Collective  Sydney                               Media Release                       21 March 2012


Aunty of deaths in custody victim speaks out against ‘Stronger Futures'

An Aunty of Terrance Briscoe, an Anmatjere man who died in police custody in Alice Springs on January 5, will phone in to address an anti-NT Intervention protest in Sydney today, the UN Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Patricia Morton-Thomas, a spokesperson for the family of the deceased man, believes her nephew is a victim of the NT Intervention and that there will be more deaths in custody if the Intervention continues. She says racism, incarceration and aggressive policing have increased markedly under the Intervention.

Eye-witnesses say police threw Mr Briscoe on the ground in the police station and sat on him, causing suffocation. They say he was "like a rag doll" when picked up off the ground and put in his cell.

The Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney protest will be held at the offices of NT Tourism to demand justice for Terrance Briscoe and the withdrawal of 'Stronger Futures' legislation, which will continue the Intervention for 10 years.

Patricia Morton-Thomas said:

"My nephew is a victim of the Intervention. He's not the first and he won't be the last. Its just disgusting the way Aboriginal people are treated here. Not only is our culture being treated as worthless but our people's lives are treated as worthless. Alice Springs has always been a racist little town but I've never seen anything like this in my life. And there is constant harassment from the police every night."

"If Stronger Futures goes through, we will have more and more people going to jail. Our culture is under attack. My people are under attack on our own soil. We're the oldest living culture in the world and they are going all out to destroy us. I see so much despair with my people at the moment, there's no hope. I'm hearing constantly about suicides. My people are just dying."

Ms Morton-Thomas reiterated calls for an independent investigation into her nephew's death:

"The police story just keeps changing, first they say he had a heart attack and then they said he might have suffocated and now they're saying its alcohol poisoning. We've had two separate stories about how the cut above his eye opened. We can't get a straight story from them." "We need to stop police investigating the criminal activity of other police. That has to go. How can the police possibly expect anyone to trust them if they're investigating themselves?"

"My nephew is gone, nothing can get him back. What I would like to see is a change of attitudes to my people. If my nephew's death is not to be in vain, it should be used for change. And not for a 'Stronger Future', but for an equal future for all Australians. Stop the intervention. Introduce real laws that are fair on both sides. Reinstate the human rights that they took off us", concluded Ms Morton-Thomas.

Paddy Gibson from the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney said:

"Whether it was found that he was suffocated by police or was left to die unmonitored in his cell, Terrance Briscoe is dead today because of racist treatment from the NT Police. We are protesting at the NT Tourism offices today to keep up pressure on the NT government for an independent inquiry and for justice."

"Racist laws breed racist actions. Stronger Futures is a brutal piece of legislation that will exacerbate the deep social crises in NT Aboriginal communities. This rally is part of a ground-swell taking place against Stronger Futures. Today with Senate will be presented with 33,000 signatures on a 'Stand for Freedom' petition calling for the laws to be withdrawn", concluded Mr Gibson.

Rally details: 12:30pm at the office of NT Tourism, 201 Sussex st Sydney

Speakers include:
Nicole Watson, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning UTS, co-author of Listening but not Hearing, a new report on Stronger Futures
Ray Jackson, Indigenous Social Justice Association
Patricia Morton-Thomas, Aunty of Terrance Brisoce (phone link up from Alice Springs).

For comment contact:
Patricia Morton-Thomas 0432 612 105
Paddy Gibson 0415 800 586