Photographer's Note

A genocide has been taking place in Australia since 1770. Once upon a time it was characterised by mass-shootings, rape, the deliberate poisoning of water and food supplies, the Stolen Generations and the stealing of land. In modern times it is characterised by a more subtle form, I call it "genocide by a thousand cuts": the destruction of Aboriginal communities, stealing of land and resources, the highest youth suicide rate in the world, the highest youth and indigenous rate of incarceration in the world, Third World health services resulting in a life-expectancy lower than that seen in the Third World, the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents by Family Services and police, a military state being imposed in the Northern Territory. And Black deaths in custody occurring at a rate 5 times that seen during the height of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Although Aboriginal Australians make up 2.7% of the population, they are 58% of the youth prison population and 30% of the adult prison population. A black death in custody is now happening every 4 weeks. The most recent black death in custody was this week.

Australia and in particular our First Nations community, has lost another one of its civil rights activists. Uncle Ray Jackson passed away on 23 April 2015.

Uncle Ray, as he was affectionately known, fought tirelessly in the struggle against Black Deaths In Custody. His mother was Aboriginal and his father was white Australian. After his father was killed in World War II, the 2 year old Ray became a victim of the Stolen Generations, a policy whereby the Australian Government took Aboriginal babies from their parents and placed them with white families. He never found his mother, or brothers or sisters.

Uncle Ray played an important role in the Royal Commission into Black Deaths In Custody and from 1987 until 1991 was a member of the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee that was permitted to go into prisons and police stations where there had been a black death. It was highly effective, yet was de-funded by the conservative Howard Government in the early 1990s.

Ray founded the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), of which I am a proud member. Whilst never acknowledged by the Australian Government for his work, the French Government did and in 2013 awarded Uncle Ray the French Human Rights Medal, the Priz des Droits de l'homme de la Republique Francaise.

Uncle Ray was unrelenting in his fight for justice for the families of Aboriginal people killed in custody. Among them, Eddie Murray, John Pat, TJ Hickey, Mr Ward, Julieka Dhu, Veronica Baxter, Cameron Doomadgee, Mark Mason and Daniel Yock, to mention a few. His loss is particularly hard-felt by the families and by his own family, whom he loved so much.

I loved him too, and am still too sad to say any more than that. Vale Uncle Ray, you are loved and missed.

In my Workshop is a photo of Uncle Ray with some of the families of those who have been killed in custody.

This is a film clip from Uncle Ray's Farewell,
Ray's Last March

I dedicate a song to this wonderful, wise, humble man. It is written by Aboriginal singer, Frank Yamma called She Cried

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Additional Photos by Lisa DP (delpeoples) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5609 W: 342 N: 12455] (60342)
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