It was just yesterday.
Four grandmothers stepped forward into a blanket of light. They stepped into heat and sweat, the shade stretching perceptibly short; the NT supreme court’s veneer, slick and tall, rose before them.
In the heat the police stood in the shade against the wall, or behind it. In Alice Springs, for a moment, they seemed to recede from view.
In the heat the mic, with a faulty cable, failed the grandmothers.
But these four grandmothers, traditional owners from central Australia, stepped forward and spoke about what we really needed to talk about.
(If you missed hearing them, watch them here: https://www.facebook.com/shutyouthprisonsmparntwe/videos/1182368301863800/)
In the all the talk that has struck up since the rally against deaths in custody just a week ago, what’s important seems to have slipped from the forefront. What dominates conversation is the argued waste of police resources, and the apparently subtle reasons why people advocating justice deserve a disproportionately violent response from several white police officers.
What seems to ring loudest is the priority of traffic control over the lives of aboriginal people dying in police custody.
And that Dylan should regret and pay for protesting against people dying needlessly.
What fades from view is the promise that something is being done about the pipeline that draws young people into the criminal justice system, into prisons at an early age; a system of sticky cogs.
The cog of prison.
The cog of custody.
The cog of dying in custody.
It would be better if this were hyperbole but…
In the heat the mic failed them, but the grandmothers pointed their voices and statement where it needed to face.
Away from Dylan.
The NT police directed their efforts and attention at the Voller family, the grandmothers were saying, but this was a distraction from the real problem. Just another example of it.
The problem was that standing up to acknowledged abuses came with ongoing costs. Retribution through police harassment and court dates was just one part of it.
The grandmothers wanted us to think about the real story.
Past royal commissions have not saved aboriginal lives.
Now, we were all waiting on the royal commission findings about saving young peoples’ lives from prison. The government, the grandmothers reminded the audience, had not taken any action against the perpetrators of abuse on young people like Dylan.
Instead, people were present to see if Dylan would go to jail.
The only ones to pay for the actions of NT Corrections so far were Dylan and his family.
Several people in audience scanned the paling grey blinds. At one point onlookers from the upper level of the court watched the gathering of people below. Then they drew down the blinds.
When the grandmothers spoke, people stood behind them; afterwards, people retreated to the shade on the edge of the concourse, where the yellow bunny, colloquially known by some to be a two finger sign of frustration towards the court, stretched it’s two pronged shadow towards the opaque doors of the building.