Telling the untold story of Aboriginal women deaths in custody through art
Four Indigenous creatives and academics, Professor Larissa Behrendt, Assoc Professor Pauline Clague, Dr Lou Bennett, and Dr Romaine Moreton, have worked with community to re-voice the stories of Aboriginal women who have died in custody.
Titled, ‘Sorry For Your Loss’, the project is an installation piece made up of communal artwork and visual and audio performances set within a cell block. The piece tells the true story of the lives of the women who have died while in custody, pushing back against mainstream narratives.
“The hope is that the installation piece will visit communities and create dialogue around the ever growing numbers of our women being incarcerated in the jail system,” says Prof. Behrendt.
The project has been driven by Jumbunna Research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
“We wanted people to experience an immersion of the lives of the women, an installation meant we could work with a few people supporting each other through such loss, trauma and grief. For us it has also been wonderful to be supported by the community coming together to do the cultural components for the exhibition,” explains Assoc Professor Clague.
The project has also involved the making of a traditional possum skin cloak that represents the Aboriginal women who have died while in police custody since 1987, the year the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody was announced by the Hawke Government. Aboriginal women from across Sydney were involved in the creation of the cloak.
“We hope this installation will allow us to heal and continue the work each day in a powerful way, honoring these women,” says Ms. Clague.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission were handed down in 1991, yet many of them are yet to be implemented. The imprisonment rate for Indigenous females increased by 58.6% between 2000-2010 as noted by the Law Council of Australia.
The installation will be officially launched on the 30th May, during Reconciliation Week with the exhibition open to the public from the 31st May – 10th June at Boomalli Co-operative, 55-59 Flood Street, Leichardt in Sydney. There will also be a panel on the 31st May focusing on the issue of escalating numbers of Aboriginal women in custody.