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How To Celebrate – And Get Behind – The Launch Of The Dhadjowa Foundation

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose loved ones have died in custody
Apryl Day with her family and portrait of her late mum, Tanya Day, who died in custody in 2017.

There’s been a lot of talking this week. Women have marched in the streets and cried out, ‘Enough is enough.’ Female politicians have appeared on national TV calling for respect (only to be interrupted by their male counterparts). And survivors have courageously shared their stories, bared their souls and demanded change.

There’s been a lot of talking this week, and these conversations are important for real change to happen, but we also need action.

In a sea of voices, Apryl Day is taking action. After successfully campaigning to abolish public drunkenness laws in Victoria (after the death of her mother Tanya Day in police custody in 2017), Day is launching The Dhadjowa Foundation next month to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families whose loved ones have died in custody

“Dhadjowa means ‘sunshine’ in Yorta Yorta; it’s a nod to Mum’s spirit and how she would light up a room. It’s also about shining a light on the injustices Aboriginal people are facing, and a blazing reminder to the government that we will continue to fight for justice,” Day told marie claire in our 2020 Women of the Year reportage.

The launch event is being held on Saturday April 3 at Abbotsford Convent in Victoria and will feature performances by the immensely talented Archie Roach, Soju Gang, Kaiit, Kee’ahn and more.

There will also be an exhibition honouring the individuals, families and communities who have lost their lives to Black deaths in custody, and fundraising artworks for sale on the day.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, more than 400 Indigenous people have died in custody. This month alone, there were three Black deaths in custody in the span of a week.

To call it an outrage seems insufficient. It’s a disgrace, an abysmal failure, a painful slap in the face to all the families who’ve worked so hard to end Black deaths in custody.

In a joint statement released by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services earlier this month, representatives called for urgent action. “We are extremely concerned that while our people continue to die in custody at alarming rates, Federal, state and territory Government have chosen not to prioritise saving Black lives,” the statement read. “Our people have marched, we have raised our voices, we have participated in inquiry after inquiry, we have shared our stories and developed solutions.”

It’s time for the Government to put in the same amount of effort and act immediately.

And it’s time for us to practice what we preach. If you posted a Black square in support of #BlackLivesMatter, now is your chance to back that up with real support.

Let’s get behind the Dhadjowa Foundation and its important work. As well as offering peer support like mentoring and mental health care, the Foundation will provide financial support for funerals, sorry business, travel and court costs, and develop vital resources shaped by lived experiences.

“Families whose loved ones have died in custody have been leading the way for change to end this injustice since colonisation,” says Day. “My hope is that we have no Aboriginal deaths in custody, that our people are able to live without risk of dying because of the colour of their skin, and that those who are responsible for taking Aboriginal life are held criminally responsible, and justice is served.”

Buy tickets to the Dhadjowa Foundation launch event here.

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