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Indigenous leaders 'struggle' with prisoner funeral plan

Pin PROTEST - A Snap Action to protest the funding cuts to Prisoner Funeral Transport has been called for Tuesday, 18th of September, at 11.00am, Outside the Department of Corrective Services St George Tce Office, 141 St Georges Tce, Perth CBD.

ABC News Jul 11, 2012

Indigenous leaders say a plan to save money by cutting the number of prisoners who are allowed to attend funerals would not work culturally.

The Department of Corrective Services says giving prisoners video feeds of a funeral rather than transporting them around WA will save about $500,000 a year.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on prisoners, especially Indigenous inmates who could face cultural consequences for not attending funerals.

The CEO of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation in Roebourne, Michael Woodley, says filming such ceremonies is a sensitive issue.

"Already culturally you are breaking new ground in terms of wanting to film funeral ceremonies, which is something that wouldn't sit comfortably with the family or the community" he said.

"So we are going to struggle with that concept for a very long time and giving permission to do so would probably take longer than someone in the prison system granting someone access to go to the funeral in person.

"Physically, spiritually and mentally it would have major interference with that individual knowing he hasn't been present at a funeral he must attend.

"It could also work against that individual, that having not come to a funeral, because of the reasons why he hasn't come, still holds him responsible for not attending, culturally he could still be punished by the family who lost a loved one."

The Deaths In Custody Watch Committee (WA) Inc

Media Statement

17th September 2012

The Warrel and Yates families and the Nyoongar Tent Embassy and supporters are outraged at the state government and private company serco's descision to restrict an incarcerated aboriginal man from attending his mothers funeral service and burial.

We cannot believe this is happening as funerals to us are a most sacred and important part of our culture. This is our sorry time and must be respected at the highest level. It is our time to say goodbye and grieve with our families. For these reasons we will be holding an action outside of the Department of Corrective Services from 11am Tuesday 18th September 2012, and call on Commissioner Ian Johnson to meet with us and sit with the family to engage discussion and overturn the decision IMMEDIATELY, and also the Premier Colin Barnett.

This decision breaches many of the articles within the Declaration on the RIghts of Indigenous Peoples, as well as our right to self determination as was passed in the 1970's UN resolution 2625, as well as many human rights breaches.

We as Aboriginal people cannot understand why each successive government makes decisions which are not in the best interests of our people and will simply lead to further increasing social justice issuesand stepping back from the process of conciliation, which AUstralia promotes constantly to the international arena, meanwhile oppressing our people in a continuing and ongoing genocide with racist and ignorant policies which are of no benefit whatsoever.

We are also deeply concerned that the governments and sercos policies regarding funerals will simply lead to an increase of self harm or suicide increasing deaths in custody rates even higher...

'To the Commissioner Iam Johnson, how could you make a rule where my sisters son cant be at his mothers funeral. he is getting punishedfor his crime, but the punishment YOUR HANDING OUT IS THE MOST SEVERE PUNISHMENT EVER! Havent you got a heart or have you got a mother and father and family. if it ever happened to you how would you feel or are you MADE OF STONE. Commissioner I hope you get punished in a svere way. theres a grandson in there who cant attend his gradnmothers funeral and you have to stand before god and he has topunish you for your sins and i pray he does. i hope you couldsleep well after this is over and if you got any concern I dont think anywhere in this world there is a punishment like this and you are so heartless. There gonna be a lot of suicides in the prisons because of your rules.' Aunty Vera Warrell (deceased sister and mans aunty)

Our people will continue to rise and speak up unitl major changes are made the way we say not the other way around. We have been victimised for far too long and its our time now. So to the government, YOU NEED TO LISTEN NOW!

For more information please contact Vera Warrel on 0407 059 339
or Marianne Headland Mackay on 0401 320 047