National

Thousands demand justice at Brisbane rally

By AAP Newswire

Thousands of people have flocked to inner-city Brisbane to protest police brutality against indigenous Australians and call for justice for those who have died in custody.

Crowds spilled from King George Square to neighbouring blocks, with people packing stairwells and balconies to get a view while others brandished signs calling for reform in Queensland and across the globe.

Speakers, including elders, traditional owners and African Australians, detailed police brutality against members of their own families and the racism they had experienced.

"We rise together and we speak in one voice against racism ... and legislation that takes away our freedom in this country ... our right to have a voice, our right to be free," Wangan and Jagalingou man Adrian Burragubba said.

Cheers and applause echoed through the streets as he called for justice and government-funded trauma support for families whose loved ones die in custody.

"While our people are dying in custody, our voice has gotta become louder, become a roar," he said.

In a separate press conference, Quandamooka woman and state Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch encouraged Queenslanders to speak out.

"Whether you're talking about the US or right here in Australia, black lives matter," she said.

"Black lives matter today. Black lives matter everyday.

"It is not just about turning up for one day, it is about turning up every day in your families, in your workplace, in your community, to tell the truth, to confront the truth, the sometimes uncomfortable, ugly truth of our shared history," she said.

The Brisbane protest is one of many across the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing public outrage following the death of African American man George Floyd while being arrested in Minneapolis.

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council said the circumstances surrounding Mr Floyd's death were all too familiar to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

At least 432 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in Australia since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report in 1991.

The QAIHC aims to eliminate health disparities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It said the impact of institutional racism and systemic bias experienced by First Nations people was having a direct impact on their wellbeing.

"Behind every life taken is a broken-down family and a disrupted community clouded in anger, mistrust and confusion," it said in a statement.

"The long-term health impacts after a death in custody or incident of police brutality are endless."

They included poor mental health, social and emotional distress, injury, harmful alcohol and substance use, self-harm, suicide ideation and attempts, and physical health conditions being exacerbated due to disengagement with the health system, the QAIHC said.

"The death of one can very quickly become the death of many," it added.

Queensland's Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall urged Australian governments to actively work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on a "power-sharing" basis.

"There are scandalously disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal children, women and men detained within a criminal justice system which habitually repeats patterns of policing established under past policies of dispossession and protection," he said.