Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.
The sister of Yamatji woman JC has called for change in the way police handle mental health and a deeper respect for Aboriginal people.
JC was shot dead by police in the Geraldton suburb of Karloo in September 2019.
As the murder trial of the WA Police officer charged with killing JC continues in Perth, Bernadette Clarke told the National Indigenous Times her sister suffered trauma and substance abuse problems.
“My sister really needed help and there was none out there. All she needed deep down was help,” she said.
“She was kind-hearted… [but] She ended up under the influence of alcohol and drugs.”
JC, a 29-year-old mother of one, was shot outside a home in Karloo while allegedly holding a knife and a pair of scissors.
Eight police officers were present, including, the prosecution has told the court, one who drew but did not use a taser.
Ms Clarke said there was a need for police to have more understanding of mental health issues and a greater respect for Aboriginal people.
“Police need to start respecting Aboriginal people and Aboriginal culture,” she said.
“A lot of things need to change. The police need to recognise people with mental disorders, and help them, not shoot them.
“It hurts every day going to court and having him plead not guilty. My family, I have to sew them up, have to mend their hearts. They took our loved one from us.”
“It is making us Aboriginal people feel like there is racism everywhere in this world.”
Ms Clarke said on Tuesday she wept as she walked out of the Supreme Court.
“I was told a lot of truths in court; I came out of there in tears. These last two days I have been feeling down and out,” she said.
“I feel like I let her down as a big sister, I was not there for her. It’s getting harder every day to look at the evidence and hear the witnesses, but I am mending my heart.”
Human rights lawyer and Noongar woman Associate Professor Hannah McGlade, told the National Indigenous Times police violence against Aboriginal people was particularly dire in Western Australia.
“We have had more deaths in custody than any other State and we are seeing, increasingly, Aboriginal women dying as a result of police violence,” she said.
“We not long had the inquest for Ms Wynne, who died in very shocking circumstances, a young Aboriginal woman in mental health distress, also dealing with the Department of Child Protection, dealing with child removal.”
Ms Wynne, a Noongar-Yamatji 26-year-old mother of three, died in April 2019.
She died five days after being handcuffed and restrained by three police officers, including a 115kg man who placed his knee on her back until she passed out.
A forensic scientist told the recent inquiry into her death that she died from a severe brain injury caused by a restricted supply of oxygen to her brain.
Associate Professor McGlade said there was “a real problem in this State that is longstanding in relation to the treatment of Aboriginal people, and it shows in regard to police use of forces and Aboriginal deaths”.
“All of society need to change,” she said.
“We continue to have a problem with racism and racist violence, and it is especially pronounced in WA.”
“We need to see a commitment to overcoming that if anything is going to change, and at this stage it is not being acknowledged.”
The associate professor said the State did not have a commitment to a “human rights culture” or to “treating Aboriginal people with respect as First Nations people”.
“There is a very dangerous undercurrent which is evident in the growing and damaging divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” she said.
“We are seeing it in incarceration figures and the removal of children at rising levels.
“We are not progressing; in fact, many people feel it is getting worse.”
By Giovanni Torre