September 28, 2013 - John Pat Day shall be a national remembrance with thousands marching
Image courtesy Margaret Bertling
John Pat, who was killed by off-duty police officers in Western Australia's Roebourne in 1983 will be remembered in a National John Pat Day next year. Marches and rallies will take place in every major city and in many towns across the nation. It will be 30 years since September 28, 1983 when his life was extinguished during a brutal beating by an inebriated racist police officer. Last week The National Indigenous Times visited Roebourne and met with John Pat’s mother, Mavis Pat.
Mother Mavis Pat has given her blessing for the National Day of Remembrance for her son – and for the marches and peaceful rallies that will take place across the nation.
“My son has never left me, I remember him every day,” said Mother Mavis Pat. She said there forever remains "a hole in her heart."
“I had hoped much would change with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody but sadly it appears little has changed.”
Every September 28, John Pat is remembered at a memorial event at Fremantle Prison, which is now a museum, and where a memorial to John Pat is situated – with an 'Ode to John Pat' by the late Dr Jack Davis engraved in stone in memory of the 16 year old youth. However his 30th will now go nationwide and with the likelihood of thousands marching across the nation and simultaneously in light of the many deaths in custody since.
South Australia’s Patrick Byrt believes that a national John Pat Day will highlight ways forward and long overdue healing. Mr Byrt, a lawyer with the Roma Mitchell Community Legal Centre, and convenor of volunteers for Reconciliation and Human Rights at the Community Legal Centre said John Pat should be remembered more and more each year to ensure less and less wrong is done.
Adelaide Senior Kaurna Woman, Ngangki Burka, Lynette Alice Crocker, who is also Vice Chair of the Kaurna Yerta said that Adelaide will remember John Pat. “My husband when he was alive wrote a poem about John Pat. What happened to John Pat was a pain shared by all of us, Aboriginal people nationwide.”
“We remain in the struggle for respect and a recognition of who we are,” said Ms Crocker.
John Pat Day will be included in the ANTaR SA and SA Journey of Healing 2013 calendars of Aboriginal significant dates.
Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) Sydney president Ray Jackson said that there will be a march and rally in Sydney to remember John Pat.
“In the 1980s following John Pat’s death and during the early years of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody we held protest marches around the nation on John Pat Day, every September 28,” said Mr Jackson.
“When the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody watch groups were formed we had our annual national deaths in custody marches and protests on September 28 in remembrance of all the deaths in custody that had also occurred in preceding years.”
“The ISJA, and other groups, has long called for and supports the reintroduction of the John Pat marches. ISJA will march for John Pat and for his family, and for the other 400 and their families who have never found justice or peace because of the cover-ups and a white legal system that fails us," said Mr Jackson.
Nyoongar Marianne Mackay, a law student, former chair of Perth's Death in Custody Watch Committee and who lost the father of her eldest son to a prison death in custody will march on John Pat Day remembering John Pat and all who have died since. “As Aboriginal people we are sick and tired of the burdens upon us, of what our people and our families endure, the suffering we are expected to endure. A national event of this type, with the blessing of Mother Mavis, will let the rest of Australia understand how little has changed for our people, and that our people continue to be punished for being black and 'in the way'.”
John Pat is buried in Roebourne and his Mother visits him regularly.
CLIMATE of DEATH - justice denied means more will die, by Gerry Georgatos (courtesy of the National Indigenous Times - nit.com.au)
"We have to get rid of racist cops. I don't want to dwell on the past but I have grown up bitter," said Nyungar Elder Ben Taylor. Mr Taylor is on the mark when he says, "They have been killing our people for two hundred years."
John Pat is dead. Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee is dead. T.J.Hickey is dead. Dion Woods is dead. Grantley Winmar is dead. Elder Mr Ward is dead. Peter Clarke is dead. Terrance Briscoe is dead. There have been more than 300 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991 - the year of the 339 recommendations from the 1987-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Since 1980 and to 2012 there have been nearly 3,000 deaths in custody - Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, one of the world's worst death in custody rates.