BLACK LIVES MATTER HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
Dear students and colleagues,
Horrific events in the US this week have refocused attention on Australia’s own history of violence and neglect towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples, including inequities in healthcare.
Please see below a statement from Murrup Barak, the university’s Institute for Indigenous Development.
The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences stands with Murrup Barak and First Nations across the country in condemning racism in all forms.
The current coronavirus pandemic has shown that medical voices are influential in leading governments along safe and healthy paths.
Some of you will be considering attending rallies this weekend. However, we encourage you to deeply consider the risks of large-scale public gatherings while the virus is still active.
The Premier of Victoria and the state's Chief Medical Officer are urging people to find other ways to show their support.
Ways you can show support include visiting change.org or blacklivesmatter.com, petitions, using social media hashtags, donating to a worthy cause, or window signage. You can also look at some of the practical ways you can educate yourselves, amplify the voices of Indigenous Australians and proactively engage on these issues.
In recognition of the likelihood that some of you will choose to demonstrate despite government requests, and as a Faculty with world-leading experts in public health we have an obligation to provide safety advice.
Our Head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Professor Nancy Baxter and Director of Indigenous Health Dr Ngaree Blow, have provided the following health guidance:
"If you’re in a medium-high risk category for COVID-19 (elderly, immune compromised etc) then we do not recommend physically attending the protest. If you’re healthy and considering attending the protest you have a civic responsibility to follow the guidelines below to ensure public health is protected:
- Activate the COVIDSafe app
- Before you leave home and when you return, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water (even if you have used hand sanitiser)
- Where possible reduce the number of people who touch the same surface. If you need to switch the people holding signs or banners, consider using hand sanitiser.
- If you do use a mask, wear it properly, and try to minimise the amount of times you touch your face or the mask
- Yelling can spread droplets, choose signs, drums, or similar noise makers
- Stick with a buddy group to keep your unknown contacts low
- Carry hand sanitiser
- Maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres wherever possible
- Consider restricting interactions for the next 14 days, particularly with those that may be at higher risk of developing severe disease
- Carefully monitor yourself for symptoms and if symptoms develop contact your doctor or the DHHS 24-hour hotline (1800 675 398) to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19 as per DHHS recommendations."
You should judge for yourself the best way to show your support while still demonstrating strong health leadership.
And finally, in reading and reflecting upon the recent events, I have been deeply moved by two videos. One by Rev Al Sharpton at the funeral of George Floyd. One may not agree with all he says, but one cannot but be moved by the power of his words, conviction of his case, and how he has taken the brutal realities of this unfortunate incident to shape the metaphors of our time.
The speech is long, and worth every single minute of it.
The second video that spoke to me so loudly was that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When poked to criticise the US, he chose silence; and instead used his words to look within.The speech is short, and yet says so much.
In that lyricism of Sharpton and the introspection of Trudeau there are messages for each of one us. I hope we will take this moment to find them.
Professor Shitij Kapur
Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health)
STATEMENT FROM MURRUP BARAK
We join the world watching events unfold in the United States of America following the tragic death of George Floyd whilst in police custody in Minneapolis.
We also acknowledge the tragic death of another Black man this week, David McAtee, when police opened fire on protesters in Louisville.
The images we are seeing are upsetting and bring up pain, grief and trauma for many. Australia has a history of racism and was founded on violence against Indigenous peoples. Since the Royal Commission in 1991 there have been over 400 Aboriginal people die in custody and no-one has been held accountable for any of them. What we are seeing now are the same stories on different soil. We urge all Australians to look to our own backyard – not just now, but always - and stand with Indigenous people and communities against racially motivated violence and deaths in custody.
We empathise and send strength to the protestors who remain committed to seeing justice and change within oppressive systems.
We call for justice for George Floyd, for David McAtee, for Ms Dhu, for Joyce Clarke, for David Dungay, for Tanya Day, for all the Black, Brown, African American, People of Colour, Indigenous, First Nations people who have died in police custody.
We call for unity. Let’s amplify the voices of change.