Loss signals lessons yet to be learnt on custody deaths






AT just 22, and locked-up for unpaid fines, Julieka Dhu suffered in agony in a Pilbara watch-house for three days before her death.

In a tragedy that has again ­invoked the shameful record of black deaths in custody in Western Australia, the Aboriginal woman — about to see a doctor for a suspected leg infection when arrested earlier this month — had begged to be hospitalised instead of kept in jail.

But despite days of vomiting, worsening pain and complaints of fever and paralysis — first in her lower body and then her face — authorities deemed her medically fit to be kept in custody after two visits to the nearby hospital, although she reportedly wasn’t seen by a doctor.

Almost three weeks after her death, which has gone largely ­unnoticed in the face of a lockdown on information, allegations are emerging of police neglect and questions are being asked as to why more wasn’t done to help her by health workers.

There is also medical evidence of a head injury, possibly sustained while being held in the South Hedland Police Station watch-house, in the state’s far north mining ­region of the ­Pilbara.

Her death on August 4 is the latest in a litany of Aboriginal deaths in custody in WA that range from violent to perplexing but none of them more notorious than that of 16-year-old John Pat, who died in the Pilbara’s Roebourne adult lock-up after an ­alleged police bashing in September 1983. The outcry over Pat’s death helped spark the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which among its 339 recommendations — many of which, have never been implemented — was that Aboriginal people should only be arrested when there is no alternative.

There were more recommendations after “Mr Ward’’, an Aboriginal man, was literally cooked in the back of a prison van in a 400km drive across the desert in 2008. Other deaths have served to illustrate the frailty of the homeless; in 2011, “Mr Phillips”, an itinerant Aborigine, died in the watch-house in Kalgoorlie a few weeks after being bashed by a gang of youths and in 2012 Maureen Mandijarra died in her cell in Broome after being arrested while drinking in public.

Aboriginal leaders and human rights advocates are now demanding answers about what happened to Dhu, as her partner Dion Ruffin — held in the cell beside her — has begun to fill the information vacuum surrounding her death.

Ruffin, 39, arrested with Dhu on August 2 for breaching a ­restraining order involving another woman, says police repeatedly mocked and dismissed her pleas as that of a “druggie, and then a mental case’’.

Ruffin, who admits to have used “speed’’ with his partner in the days before their arrest, says she told him she was examined by only nurses, and not a doctor, during the “brief visits’’ to the nearby Hedland Health Campus hospital.

He says police had to be pushed to send Dhu to the nearby hospital, on the first and second night of her detention, and was eventually given painkillers.

“She had a blood blister the day before our arrest, and we had popped it with a sterile pin, but then she woke up feeling sick and with this red line on her leg,’’ ­Ruffin said.

“She also had two old fractured ribs that still hurt and she told the police all of this. We had to beg for hours to get them to send her to the hospital, she was in so much pain and was vomiting, it got worse and worse until she couldn’t move her legs and was slurring.

“She was begging for help until her last breadth.’’

Police declined to comment on those allegations amid the investigation by their own internal ­affairs unit, which will report to the state coroner. But two days after Dhu died, police published a chronology of events asserting they took her to the hospital each time she complained of being unwell.

“Whilst in the lock-up the woman advised police of being unwell and on two separate occasions she was taken to the Hedland Heath Campus, on Saturday 2 ­August and again on Sunday 3 ­August 2014,” police said.

“On both occasions, medical staff provided police with a Medical Fitness to be Held in Custody certificate before she was returned to the lock-up.

“On Monday 4 August 2014, the woman again told police she was unwell and she was again conveyed to the Hedland Health Campus where her condition ­deteriorated and she passed away.”

Yesterday state Acting Police Commissioner Lawrence Panaia said WA Police took its duty of care towards detainees very seriously, and there were strict policies in place relating to the admission and ongoing management of detainees.

“In a situation where a detainee who is already in custody shows signs of being seriously injured or ill, WA Police policy requires officers to ensure the detainee is taken to a place for medical treatment, and this should be by ambulance whenever possible,” he said.

An autopsy has been unable to determine the cause of death, and the forensic pathologist is waiting on the results of further tests.

Ruffin also disputes a police statement that his partner of more than a year had died in hospital, after she was taken there on the third day she was locked up. She was due to be released the following day. “On the last day she was hysterical, saying she felt like she was dying and we were begging the police to take her back to hospital,’’ he said.

“I couldn’t see into her cell, she said she was on the floor and when the cops finally agreed to take her to hospital the last time they were laughing and saying she was acting. They opened the cell, and I heard one of them say get up, but she couldn’t and she was begging for help to get up and I heard a big thud, and then silence.

“I saw her being dragged out of the cell by her arms, her chin was on her chest and I cried out to her, but she was staring down, blank.’’

An autopsy report, obtained by The Weekend Australian, found an “undetermined (pending investigations)’’ cause of death.

Forensic pathologist Jodi White reported Dhu had old fractures of two ribs, with a “possible re-fracture’’ of one and bleeding in and around the lungs.

Dr White also found a head wound and dried vomit in her mouth, nose and all over her body.

“There was turbid, heavily blood stained fluid in both cavities in association with an apparent florid haemorrhagic pneumonia,’’ he said.

The WA Country Health Service, which runs the Pilbara hospital where Dhu was declared dead, yesterday declined to say if she saw a doctor on either of the earlier hospital visits. The service also did not reveal details about why the hospital handed her back to police twice in the 48 hours before she died.

“We can say that a preliminary review by Hedland Health Campus staff has shown that on each occasion she received appropriate treatment,” regional director Ron Wynn said.

Dhu’s death comes a year after a WA parliamentary inquiry found many lock-ups around the state fell well short of what is safe and fully functional.

Detainees were often unable to access timely medical services as required by law, the inquiry found.

Dhu’s youth sets her apart from some of the Aboriginal people with complex health problems who are known to police in remote towns in the state’s north.

In Broome, where there is an itinerant population of Aboriginal people from outlying communities, police have confided they are frightened about taking the drunk and sick into custody..

They wished there was a health worker in the lock-up, as there soon will be at the redesigned Perth watch-house.

“None of us are doctors or nurses, we are not qualified to care for them,” one officer said.

I have been thinking a lot about the parallels between Australia and Ferguson lately, especially because Palm Island has been coming up in conversation a lot. I wonder what will happen to Ferguson when Darren Wilson gets trialed and I wonder if it will be similar to when Chris Hurley was trialed. Most Australian people who I have talked to in the last week who know a lot about Ferguson don’t know about Palm Island and when they get into conversation about it become very uncomfortable. It’s easier for them to condemn the murder of an innocent Black person when they don’t see themselves as being connected to it, implicated in it, culpable.

It’s easy even for Australians I know to condemn America and it’s response to the protests in Ferguson. Yet when I remind them about Palm Island, the Redfern riots etc. they all spout the same racist rhetoric we’ve learned from the media and society. Acknowledging the problems in our own country makes people uncomfortable and they’ll tune you out with Iggy Azalea if they have to.


it’s annoying because skinny girls never ride for thick or fat girls EVER, never reblog pictures of them or mention shit bout body positivity and uplifting the spirits of thick and fat girls like I never see y’all advocating for curves and extra fat on the thighs or hips or anything but when Nicki goes “Fuck skinny bitches” y’all are suddenly activists for self-image and body positivity? get gone you fakes and liars. Fuck all y’all


"you’re too young to know what your sexuality is" said the straight person to a queer teenager 

"he’s such a ladies’ man" said the straight person about a 6 month old baby that doesn’t know what a lady is

Hair diary - gonna grow it out for a while. Dyed it darker, but it’ll fade with sun etc, hopefully blend/fade nicely when my roots come through. #selfcare #hairdiary

Hair diary - gonna grow it out for a while. Dyed it darker, but it’ll fade with sun etc, hopefully blend/fade nicely when my roots come through. #selfcare #hairdiary

Anonymous asked:

Thank you for including pieces about date rape and gray-area rape. I am a couple years out of a college with a very heavy drinking culture, and those things happened to me in several different ways with several different people. I wasn't a very good person then, and I was usually very aggressively desperate for affection, and it's really hard to conceive of those incidents as not being my fault. But it's nice to hear. Maybe one day I'll believe it. Thank you.


I’m sorry these things have happened to you. I know you say that you weren’t ‘a very good person then,’ but I am guessing you were a good person and a mixed up person and a young person and a person who wanted love and respect even though sometimes she didn’t feel she deserved love and respect. You did deserve love and respect and you do now as well. You really do." - Myfanwy

This breaks my heart to hear, little sister, because I was you. I know everything you just said, because I said it, too, over and over again. It was so easy to justify. To put it all on me. But dearest, you weren’t a bad person because you wanted attention or affection. Please never let anyone tell you that. I wish I had realized it sooner, so I hope you hear me now: everyone wants love. Affection. Attention. We need it to become our best selves. But we need the good kind, the supportive, real kind, and it can be so hard to tell the difference. Some of us spend our whole lives trying to sort out the difference. Look how strong you are, making those judgments now. Look how amazing you are. You are so much more than you know. Please don’t ever sell yourself short. It’s not your fault, little sister. It’s not on you. The only thing that’s on you is this: take care of yourself. Please love yourself. You are so worthy. You are so wonderful. I don’t know you, but I love you. I hear you and I love you." - Alisha

We all grow. We all change. We all look back. We are all sometimes mystified by who we were/what we did when we do. Your perspective may change as you get older. I know mine has. It’s okay to recognize that you engaged in patterns of behavior that were unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that you gave up your right to say no and asked to be assaulted. 
I hope that you are in a much better place now and it sounds like you have spent time thinking about your thinking—which is really a sophisticated and valuable ability.

Keep thinking and keep unpacking. Keep turning it over in your mind. I trust that you’ll land right. I trust that you’ll find your feet. I trust that one day, you’ll understand who you were, why you made the choices you did, and will see the clear demarcation between your behavior and that of whoever took advantage. It can be hard to find at first, but once you see it, it’ll change your life. For me, it happened when my daughter was born. For others, therapy helps. Sometimes, it just takes distance. Wherever you land, though, forgive yourself first. Before you explain away another’s behavior toward you, take a moment and give yourself that same grace." - Jennifer

Dear one—what happened to you was done TO you, not BY you. You did not commit an offense. YOU WERE A GOOD PERSON THEN. YOU ARE STILL A GOOD PERSON NOW. I typed that in capitals because I want to make sure you see that. I know you’re a long way from believing it. But every journey starts with a step, right? There is nothing wrong with you for seeking love, approval, acceptance from the wrong people. There is nothing wrong with being young and making a decision that in hindsight was probably not a great idea. Also, there is nothing wrong with being a sexual person and desiring another sexually in a consensual manner. All this stuff makes you human, just like everyone else. Everyone on this planet is all trying to figure it out. Please do not blame yourself. Please do not hate yourself. Please know there are people who care and worry about you right here. Be kind to yourself. If I knew who you were, I would stop in the middle of the street and hug you." - Melanie


Almost a thousand people in West Africa die from ebola and nobody bats an eyelash, yet 2 white people in the US contract it and miraculously a cure is released and given to them because they’re an “extreme circumstance.” Satire is dead and real life is a dystopian hellscape









To All the Little Black Girls With Big Names (Dedicated to Quvenzhane’ Wallis)

Standing mothafucking ovation.

I almost cried! I needed this!

Everyone needs to watch this right now.

Say it right or don’t say it at all


And to my fellow white people - when someone is trashing on black women’s names, we all have to get better at looking THEM in the eye and saying, “Stop being so fucking racist.”

This gave me so much self-empowerment, you have no idea. My name is too “made up.” My name too is constantly mispronounced. I know anytime the teacher—whether my “regular” teacher or a substitute—pauses and takes a breath that it’s my name, and I know they’re going to completely butcher it. Obliterate it. Completely miss the mark. And then I have to raise that naturally soft-spoken voice of mine to correct them…only to get brushed aside because they don’t a fuck about my “ghetto” name that my mom created so uniquely for me. That’s what hurts even more than them mispronouncing it; them dismissing it but taking extra time to get those hard European surnames of my white classmates right even though we go by first names almost exclusively in the states. Why don’t they try grant me the same empathy? Am I not worthy simply because I’m black? If that’s the case fuck you and if you can’t say it right then don’t say it at all.

The stories in these notes are bringing me to tears. These are perfect examples of why racism, discrimination, white beauty standards and everything in this fucked up society is so hurtful and we aren’t just “playing the race card” or “playing the victim” this shit is real, and it is hurting people.

My white family literally LEGALLY changed my name to a more “normal” one because they thought “Waykedria” (which I later found out was the name my birth mother gave me and has been in her family for generations) was too strange and didn’t want me to feel left out. Just because a name is unfamiliar to you doesn’t make it “ghetto”, we do not need to shorten it for your convenience, if you can fucking learn to pronounce and spell “Tchaikovsky”, you can learn to pronounce and spell “Waykedria” and every other name you call ghetto. Say it right or don’t fucking say it at all. 


When Beyoncé growled barbarian and Nicki continued going in I felt my soul shake I felt the devil leave my body I am cleansed of that one time I listened to Fancy. Thank you Beyoncé. Thank you Nicki Minaj. You healed me