In capital cities, regional centres and small towns, people across the nation are gathering together in support of the global Black Lives Matter movement and to stop Indigenous Deaths in Custody on our own soil.

A staunch Gundungurra leader, Aunty Trish Levett has marched in rallies in Sydney, Wollongong, Bowral and Kempsey.

“You can feel that powerful energy when everyone starts with those chants, even our little ones. That is powerful in itself, because we are all together as one big mob, even our non-brothers and non-sisters walking with us,” she said.

“It’s these younger ones who are starting to get up the front with us now and starting to lead these marches. Watching them step up and have that pride walking with their mob—that’s powerful too.”

Aunty Trish has remained steadfast in the face of escalating police presence at the rallies, particularly on her own Country.

“It’s all scare tactics, we are powerful strong Blak women and that isn’t going to sit with us,” she said.

“Justice has to come for all these families. All these murders in custody, I get my strength from my old people, from my ancestors. They keep feeding me and feeding me and I keep going!”

Meanwhile, at a rally in Katoomba, NSW over the weekend, on Gundungurra Country, Caroline Andersen told her story.

Andersen is the mother of Wayne Fella Morrison, a 29-year-old First Nations man who died in custody on September 26, 2016.

Morrison was pinned to the ground, cuffed on his hands and legs with a spit hood placed over his head. He was carried to a prison van accompanied by five guards. When he was removed from the van, he was unresponsive.

In 2019, Andersen moved to the Blue Mountains to heal, in preparation for the Coroner’s Court of South Australia to resume in August.

“I have been able to hide away and try and recoup and heal somewhat. Get some grounding as well, a lot of sitting out on the land,” said Andersen.

“Everyone said to me, you should go to the Mountains, that is where a lot of women go to seek healing. And I have just needed to find some peace.

“[I’ve been] trying to allow the emotions to come without continually being apologetic for tears or language or emotion. People would rather not see us be emotional because we are passionate about the causes we fight for, and this one is my last and biggest fight, the fight for justice for my son.”

Caroline Andersen at the Katoomba rally. Photo by Jodi McConaghy.

Andersen addressed the crowd at the Katoomba rally, finding strength in the support.

“I feel tired and drained, but I know once I go over all of this tonight and tomorrow, I will start to feel a bit of strength. Just from knowing that people came out to support and there’s lots and lots of allies out there that are willing to come and stand with us, come and stand with First Nations people when injustices like this have happened to us,” she said.

“I have heard from three or four other mums today that actually lost a child, under difference circumstances, but still lost their child.

“What they did for me, was they shared their pain which encourages me, and will give me strength. I will remember these women in August when I’m in Adelaide in the Coroner’s Court. I will think and ponder upon those women who have shared their stories with me today to draw strength.”

An experience no mother should have to endure, Andersen wants to ensure anyone who has felt what she has, has a supportive and safe place to grieve.

“I will be looking at holding more of these gatherings to tell stories about the struggles we face as First Nations people but also to start up a support group … for mothers that have been through this or similar circumstances,” she said.

“I haven’t had someone to just sit and cry with, I’ve tried to be strong for my kids. I finally found that I needed to come away from them in order for them to start healing and for them to start getting help.”

“I needed to come away, I have hidden for 12 months up here but how I wish I had known just one other mother that has been through a similar thing for support.”

With court proceedings beginning in August, Andersen is hoping justice will come for her and her family.

“I hope when [the Coroner] hands her findings down that she sees the injustice that we see, that everyone sees. That she will call for charges to be laid, especially for the five guards in the back of the van. Wayne went in alive and when he came out, he wasn’t breathing,” said Andersen.

“I want real justice, every mother demands justice for a child that has been killed under these circumstances. That will be the start of our healing.”

A Justice for Fella banner at the Katoomba Black Lives Matter rally. Photo by Jodi McConaghy.

The family have established a Facebook page that will have regular updates posted and a GoFundMe page to support the family’s legal fees.

“The next steps after the Coroner’s Court is going to take cash. We are not in a position to pay for lawyers that we need for a long period of time, so we need to make sure we are raising money to make sure that this is followed through [at] all the stages and can be completed. You can’t do that without money,” said Andersen.

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By Rachael Knowles