Black Lives Matter: Yarra taking local action
Wednesday 24 June 2020
Yarra Council declared its support for the global Black Lives Matter movement at a Council Meeting last night.
The motion was prepared in consultation with Yarra’s Yana Ngargna advisory group, made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, and was passed unanimously by all Councillors without debate.
Yarra Council commits to fighting racism, preventing Aboriginal deaths in custody, and advocating for broader understandings of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experiences, issues and stories.
Yarra Council recognises a need to encourage positive relationships between law enforcers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Yarra. We are committing to several actions to support this.
We are committing to taking a look at all the historical people and events represented in statues, plaques, monuments and other signage, and examining anything that may be associated with oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This does not necessarily mean we are committing to removing or replacing any historical markers.
The intention is to understand and ultimately share the full extent of our history here in Yarra, and tell a complete story. This story cannot be complete without also including our Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
12.1 – COUNCIL RESOLUTION
Moved: Councillor Stone Seconded: Councillor O’Brien
- That Yarra Council acknowledges:
(a) the success of the global Black Lives Matter protests in drawing mainstream attention to systemic racism and injustice in Australia and other colonised countries around the world;
(b) that although the current level of mainstream and media attention is new the problem is old and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have fought for many generations to create meaningful change on this issue;
(c) the lack of progress in acting on recommendations from the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody 1991;
(d) the reported 435 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in police custody since the Royal Commission in 1991, without a single conviction against a police officer in relation to these deaths;
(e) the importance of considering this figure in the context of the vast number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths that have occurred in this country, from the time of European invasion onwards, including the massacres that have been researched, mapped and documented by Professor Lyndall Ryan from the University of Newcastle;
(f) the deep hurt, grief and anger that continues to build in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community as a result of this lack of progress in acting on the recommendations in the Royal Commission, coupled with ongoing deaths in police custody and the highest incarceration rate of any group of people in the world;
(g) that this is not an issue happening elsewhere but one that is happening in the City of Yarra’s own back yard. A number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were residents of the City of Yarra have died in police custody over the years. Most recently a Yorta Yorta woman, Yarra resident and member of the local Parkies community died in police custody in January 2020. Less than two days after she was remanded in custody, she was found dead in her cell at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, Victoria's maximum security women's prison in Deer Park, at about 8 o’clock in the morning on 2 January 2020;
(h) the most recent Aboriginal death in custody took place on 5 June 2020 in Western Australia, just 1 day before the Black Lives Matters rallies around the country;
(i) the need to improve relationships between police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Yarra;
(j) that according to recently published research from the Australian National University, three out of four Australians hold a racial bias against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians;
(k) the role played by past Federal and State Government policies in the social, cultural and economic dispossession of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; the ongoing intergenerational trauma experienced by many Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a result of this; the compounding effects of racism (overt, covert and unconscious) on this trauma—and the ways in which these forces combine to reinforce entrenched disadvantage, poor health outcomes, increased contact with the justice system and economic disadvantage; and
(l) the Victorian Government’s commitment to abolish public drunkenness law and replace a law and order approach with a health-based harm minimisation approach.
- That Yarra Council commits to:
(a) ongoing consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Yarra, through Council’s Yana Ngargna Advisory Group, on how Yarra Council should acknowledge this ongoing and long term struggle against racism and injustice and the connection to the Black Lives Matter movement and Aboriginal deaths in custody;
(b) continuing to build connections with Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations;
(c) ongoing implementation of the Yana Ngargna Plan 2020 – 2023 and the 52 actions in the 2020 Year 1 Action Plan, including importantly the commitment to increase Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment opportunities at Council;
(d) continuing the work being undertaken with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, to review Yarra’s Local Law on Consumption of Liquor in Public Places;
(e) fighting racism and advocating for broader understandings of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experiences, issues and stories in line with Council’s ‘January 26 decision’ on 15 August 2017;
(f) continuing to support Smith Street Dreaming Working Group and Smith Street Dreaming Festival, to improve relationships between Victoria Police, the Parkies community, residents and traders – and seek further opportunities to build these relationships;
(g) continuing in principle support for 3CR Radio’s Beyond the Bars program, which connects imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with family, community and identity during NAIDOC week each year;
(h) seeking support from MAV, VLGA and allied Councils to advocate to State and Federal Government for policy reform; and
(i) investigating public art and civic signage opportunities to maintain mainstream momentum and community engagement with the Black Lives Matters movement as connected to Aboriginal deaths in custody.
- That Officers report back on 2 (i) public art and civic signage opportunities in the August cycle of Council Meetings, and on 2 (a) how Yarra Council should acknowledge this ongoing and long term struggle against racism and injustice and the connection to the Black Lives Matter movement and Aboriginal deaths in custody by September cycle of Council Meetings.
- That Council:
(a) conducts a stocktake of plaques, statues and monuments in public places and the names of public places including parks and buildings, where these reference figures from Australian history which may be associated with oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and reports back to Council by December 2020; and
(b) following a stocktake, conducts an audit of these objects, places and name and reviews its policies and processes that relate to the civic acknowledgement of cultural and historical figures, providing recommendations for updating of policies and processes for changing or removing objects or names.