Mapping Indigenous, refugee and migrant deaths in custody

Mapping Indigenous, refugee and migrant deaths in custody

Mapping Indigenous, refugee and migrant deaths in custody

A recently launched research initiative, Deathscapes, maps for the first time deaths in custody of Indigenous people and refugees in Australia, North America and Europe through a mix of visual art, testimonies and critical analysis.

The innovative project is led by Professor Joseph Pugliese from the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, and Professor Suvendrini Perera of Curtin University, with research partners in the USA and UK. Deathscapes has been three years in the making, and was launched on 16 February at a symposium at The Settlement in Darlington.

Deathscapes Symposium The launch was honoured by the presence of Carolyne and Francine Jackson, daughters of the late Uncle Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association. Uncle Ray Jackson was conferred an Honorary Doctorate by Macquarie University in 2016 and was honoured with the prestigious French Human Rights Prize, Prix des droits de l’homme de la Republique Francacise, in 2015. Both Carolyne and Francine Jackson spoke of the project as taking their father’s social justice legacy into the future.

A range of speakers from academic, activist and community backgrounds contributed to the launch, including Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Head of the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University and a member of the project’s Ethics Advisory Board. Professor Carlson spoke of the long history of racist violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women and she also drew attention to how “the colonial regime used the blueprint of detaining Indigenous people on remote islands for their treatment of refugees.” Dr Hannah McGlade, Senior Indigenous Research Fellow at Curtin University, said of the site: “Our Elders would say keep the fires of justice burning and that’s what this project is doing today.”

Professor Pugliese says the project draws connections and patterns in contemporary racialised violence against Indigenous peoples and refugees across the world, and seeks new ways to document, understand, and respond to this violence.

“Deathscapes reflects how the settler state asserts its stolen sovereignty through the often lethal treatment of Indigenous people in custody and through its harsh border policies.

“We view the site as a living public archive that documents and also exposes the violent relations of power that are instrumental in reproducing serial deaths in custody. The site works to make analytically visible these violent relations of power so that people are empowered to intervene in their dismantling and abolition.”

The cases presented on the site include the shocking case of Ms Dhu in South Hedland; the death of Anastasio Hernández Rojas, beaten and tasered to death by US border agents as he was being deported to Mexico; and the death of Jimmy Mubenga in the custody of G4S guards as he was being deported from the UK.

Because the content is graphic, the site allows readers to escape to a virtual ‘courtyard’ if the confronting stories become too overwhelming.

A number of speakers at the launch emphasised that they viewed the site as a learning and teaching resource for Indigenous, migrant and refugee communities, as well as for legal and medical students.

Visit the site and learn more about the project at

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