Neighbours actor Meyne Wyatt has delivered an impassioned tirade against injustice towards Indigenous Australians in an emotionally charged episode of Q&A on Monday night.
Wyatt, a Wongutha-Yamatji man from Kalgoorlie, was part of a panel discussion that focused on racism and black deaths in custody, following the weekend’s nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
Voice raised, a visibly upset Wyatt told the panel he was sick of sitting and being “the nice guy” while Australia’s institutions were “killing us”.
“It’s been continuous since Captain Cook landed on these shores. It’s still happening. It’s a denial of our existence,” he said.
“We’re demanding. We’re demanding justice. And those protests in America – they’re not protests, they’re demanding it.
“There are riots and people are talking about order. Who cares about order if there’s no justice? We want justice. I’m sick of talking about being in order – you know what? It doesn’t work. Being peaceful – peaceful protests – don’t work. You’re never saved. You’re never happy for what we do.”
Wyatt continued to raise his voice as the audience sat silent.
“I’ve got to sit here and be the nice guy,” he said. “I don’t want to be the nice guy no more. I’m sick of it. Everyone sits there and listens to you be this animal. I don’t want to be an animal no more.”
Later, to close the episode, Wyatt delivered a stunning monologue from his play City of Gold, about black identity and police brutality.
“Black deaths in custody – that sh*t needs to stop,” Wyatt said into the camera during the performance.
“Never trade your authenticity for approval. Be crazy. Take a risk. Offend your family. Call them out.
“Silence is violence. Complacency is complicit. I don’t want to be quiet. I don’t want to be humble. I don’t want to sit down.”
Tonight’s panel also included Sydney actor and writer, Nakkiah Lui, lawyer and human rights advocate Nyadol Nyuon, Federal Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers and NSW Liberal Senator, Andrew Bragg.
The episode opened with a question from Leetona Dungay, whose son David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney’s Long Bay Jail in 2015 while being pinned to the floor by five guards.
“David cried out ‘I can’t breathe’ many times in the space of his last nine minutes,” Ms Dungay said. “Despite over 430 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission, no police or prison officer has ever been held criminally liable. We know we have a long fight ahead to get justice.
“So, I’m asking the panel – will you join us to demand charges are laid on the people responsible for my son’s death?”
Mr Bragg answered by saying the Uluru Statement from the Heart was “very important to heal the country”.
“At the local level, I understand – and a lot of the feedback that I’m presented with – is that relations with the police at the local level is a very important issue,” he said. “And there are very bad examples and there are very good examples.
“Now, in your case, I’m going to commit myself to spend my time in parliament to work on these issues.”
Lui, a Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman, said the Black Lives Matter movement had been relevant in Australia “since colonisation” and perhaps Australia’s institutions needed an overhaul.
“We’re not asking for the world. We’re asking to live,” she said.
“And to be honest with you, Andrew – yeah, we can say there’s good police, there’s bad police, but quite frankly, if people in positions of authority can’t not kill a vulnerable person who’s locked up, then maybe we need to re-look at these institutions.
“And if they are set up that you can’t even trust that someone won’t be killed with a knee in their neck because they can’t breathe, that institution isn’t working.”
Lui also challenged the government’s focus on the Statement from the Heart, saying there had been a long list of recommendations for change that dated back decades.
“Here’s the thing – we’re talking about all these landmark cases, about ‘What are we going to do? How do we come to the table?’ We’ve told you what to do,” she said.
“A lot of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody weren’t implemented. What you can do is listen to the families. They can tell you right now what they want. Listen to the families. The answer has been here all along.
“We need politicians to implement it. And you just haven’t.”
The panel also heard from the mother of the boy who was filmed being slammed on the pavement by a NSW police officer.
“If it was done in another area, then that person would be charged with assault. So we want systemic change, and we don’t see that there’s any,” the mother said.
Panellist Nyadol Nyuon admitted as an Australian, she could recall the names of black Americans who died at the hands of police but could not name any of the more than 400 Indigenous Australians who have died in police custody since the Royal Commission in 1991.
“We hear the pain here, and I would like to say to everybody on this panel – particularly Indigenous people who have come here and shared your story – I am sorry that I did not know even a single name of the 400 people that were murdered, but I knew the names of black Americans that were murdered,” she said.
“Because it’s something that is inherent somehow in this country that we do not take Indigenous issues seriously enough, and we should.”
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