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Tanya Day’s family joins Black Lives Matter protest

By Ivy Jensen

WHEN Echuca grandmother Tanya Day died alone in a police cell in 2017, the only witness a security camera, there was no community outrage and there were no riots in the street.

Not even when the coroner ruled the indigenous woman’s death, caused by falling and hitting her head, was clearly preventable.

If there is anything to come out of this tragedy, it has been the determination of her family to ensure this will never happen to another person after successfully campaigning to have the offence of public drunkenness — the charge used to arrest Tanya that fateful night — abolished.

But that is not going to bring Tanya back to her family.

Tanya Day.

Nor does it come even close to explaining how more than 430 indigenous men and women have died in custody in Australia since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

And with all those deaths — averaging out to more than one a month, every month, for almost 30 years — not one person has been convicted for any kind of involvement in any of them.

While the outrage and rioting that has spilled across the United States following the death of African American George Floyd last week now reaches out across the globe, including to Europe and Australia, the police officer at the heart of the case has been charged with second degree murder.

This outcome has refocused the narrative on black deaths in custody.

“What’s happened in America, as sad as that has been, has increased people’s interest in what is happening in Australia and I believe there is more appetite for Australians to build their own knowledge and understanding what really is happening in their own country,” Tanya’s daughter Belinda Day said.

Belinda Day.

On Saturday afternoon, the Day family, along with thousands of others, will take that message to the doors of the people who make the laws in this state.

The Black Lives Matter protest, organised by members of the indigenous community, will be held on the steps of Parliament House and Belinda said her brother Warren, who lives in Echuca, and some of her mother’s brothers and nephews, would be attending on behalf of the family.

“Our family will be well represented,” she said.

“Organisers have asked our family to talk, so Warren might do a small speech remembering Mum and acknowledging we’re all in it together and we’re standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in America in seeking justice.

“I think it’s important because many people don’t understand this is happening in Australia and it’s unfortunate we have to wait for something to happen internationally before the spotlight is put on Australia.

“This is something Aboriginal people, in terms of deaths in custody, have been dealing with for many, many years. We’ve had the Royal Commission almost 30 years ago and there’s some recommendations that haven’t been implemented and we’ve got people dying in custody such as Mum, and since her death there have been still more.

“It’s important to stand together — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people — so we can make a change and make it a safer Australia for all Australians, including non-indigenous people.

“We can use the voices of all Australians to improve what’s happening.”

Tanya Day's daughters Apryl Watson and Belinda Day.

Belinda said the Day family would continue to fight for justice after Tanya’s death in custody was referred to prosecutors for further investigation.

“The findings were handed down in April but given the global pandemic I don’t believe there has been much movement in terms of those recommendations being implemented or acted on,” Belinda said.

“We are keen to ensure they are followed through but also mindful of the current environment we’re in and for things to play out until we’re in a time that we can actually put a little bit of pressure on to make sure things are moving forward in the right direction.

“There’s plenty more fight to be had to get the recommendations implemented and continue our fight for justice for Mum.

“It’s a long road ahead but the support we’re getting now means there’s visibility about what happened to Mum, there’s visibility about what’s happened to other Aboriginal people in custody and it gives us some impetus for change, so we can move forward with all this positive energy and we can all work together for a brighter future for everyone.”

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