Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

When the words, Annerley, Boggo and Clarence come together in Brisbane, we are referring directly to a history of lethal policing, which needs to be brought to an end.

When the words, Annerley, Boggo and Clarence come together in Brisbane, we are referring directly to a history of lethal policing, which needs to be brought to an end.

I did most of the work on this piece during a rally to call for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody, before the People’s March in November 2014 (just before the G20 Leaders’ Summit). The rally took place in the presence of what appeared to be an unprecedented mobilisation of police presence. My day ended at the concluding event of the People’s Summit, and I completed the work in the Princess Theatre, located on Annerley Road, between Clarence Corner and Clarence St. The words Annerley and Clarence are reminders that what we saw in November last year is not unprecedented.

During the rally, there was a lot of talk about Boggo Road gaol. Boggo is apparently a distortion of ‘bloggo’ or ‘bolgo’, meaning ‘two leaning trees’. Despite its distortion, this remains as an acknowledgement of the Traditional Owners. I want to offer my respect to the Elders, past and present, and join with them as they mourn and protest the death of yet another young Aboriginal man in the custody of police.

The name, Annerley Rd replaced the name Boggo Rd. This change is attributed to Digby Frank Denham, who was Premier of Queensland from 1911-1915.

This event was 98 years after the brutal suppression of the Great Brisbane strike of 1912 by Mr Denham. The Australian Dictionary of Biography notes

“During the strike Denham received many telegrams praising his efforts to maintain law and order; but he was widely criticized for the violence of the police and special constables towards the strikers. It is apparent that he genuinely feared a revolution. When the Commonwealth rejected his request to supply troops to put down the strike, Denham discussed with the governor, Sir William MacGregor the landing of troops from a German warship then off the Queensland coast, to assist in maintaining law and order.”

A further 79 years earlier (in 1831), Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brereton led the Dragoons in a charge against a group of protestors in Queens Square in Bristol. Hundreds of people died. Their monarch was William IV, formerly known as the Duke of Clarence. Although he would not save the lives of the protesters from the Dragoons or transportation, or the noose, William IV is credited with succumbing to public and political pressure, and reluctantly enabling the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832.

I offer my respect to the Elders, past, present and future, and join with them as they mourn and protest the death of yet another young Aboriginal man in the custody of police.

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