Please note: This article contains reference to someone who has died.
A new organisation linking healthcare and the justice system has launched this week with a campaign to stamp out racism in both sectors.
Kuku Yalanji man Karl Briscoe is the co-chair of the Partnership for Justice in Health (P4JH). He says the partnership has been years in the making.
“It really kicked off with the Miss Naomi Williams case,” he said.
Wirdajuri woman Naomi Williams was 22 weeks pregnant when she died of septicaemia at Tumut Hospital in January 2016.
A coronial inquest heard Williams made 20 visits to Tumut Hospital in the seven months before her death but had not received adequate care.
“It was all of us coming together, and saying, ‘Look, we actually need to really, really do something here, we can’t just sit back and let these kinds of things happen to our mob,’” Briscoe said.
The Partnership links organisations including:
- ABSTARR Consulting
- Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
- Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
- Indigenous Allied Health Australia
- Institute for Collaborative Race Research
- The Lowitja Institute
- National Association of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Workers & Practitioners
- National Justice Project.
P4JH launched their website at P4JH.org.au, which they hope will become a hub for resources about racism within the health and justice systems.
Briscoe said the partnership will shine a light on the interrelationship between the justice and health systems, and the poorer outcomes that Indigenous people have in both of these spaces.
“Our combined vision of our network is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to enjoy health and wellbeing that’s free from racism in the health and justice system.”
“We do have organisations that purely focus on justice, and we have organisations that purely focus on health, but where the gap is, is actually justice and health,” he said.
“When our mob access the justice system, [it’s about] ensuring that they are provided with the adequate level of healthcare, and as we’ve seen in the media, that isn’t always forthcoming.”
P4JH is focussing on lifting the voices of people with lived experience of racism in the healthcare and criminal justice systems.
“Over the coming months, we’re looking to hold a series of webinars privileging the voices of many of our family members and loved ones that have actually been through the deaths in custody process but weren’t afforded an adequate level of health care,” Briscoe said.
“It’s really just providing a platform for families to be able to share their stories.
“Hopefully you’ll have policymakers that take into consideration some of the stories that they share in order to ensure that we’re not seeing these preventable deaths in custody.”
The campaign is about giving deaths in custody statistics a human face.
“A lot of the mainstream see them as statistics, but we seem them as family members — they’re uncles, aunties, grandparents, nephews, nieces,” he said.
The webinars will form a major part of P4JH’s campaign against deaths in custody and substandard healthcare for mob, and the partnership hopes to respond to coronial inquests and make statements on incidents as they occur.
By Sarah Smit