BLACK hands placed outside the Aboriginal Tent Embassy this morning (April 15) represent the 474 indigenous people who have died in police custody in Australia over the past 30 years.
The “Sea of Hands” installation, organised by advocacy group ANTaR ACT, marks the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which made 339 recommendations at the time.
It also raises awareness of the disproportionately high rate of Aboriginal incarceration in the capital, says spokesperson for the advocacy group’s local chapter, Rita Metzenrath.
She is calling on Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury to take more action to address the staggering increase in Aboriginal incarceration in the ACT, which has grown by 279 per cent between 2009 and 2019.
“Reducing incarceration rates and improving indigenous health are key priorities for this nation,” says Rita.
“Early and unnecessary deaths of First Nations people – whether in custody or elsewhere – are all too frequent, and are a shame on our nation.”
Uncle Albert Hartnett, a Wangkumurra man from Northern Queensland, is currently staying at the embassy and was there this morning for the unveiling of the installation.
He says it serves as an ongoing reminder to the general public that Aboriginal communities across the country are still suffering.
“We want the number [of deaths in custody] to stay at 474,” he says.
“But unfortunately, in our communities, these numbers are ongoing.
“I’ve been here for 12 months now. When I first came here, there were around 430 [deaths in custody]. So in my time here we’ve had another 40 deaths.”
Five of those have been in just the last month.