Girls and Children: Stages of Institutional Violence 4f - "Those who take us away"


‘Those who take us away’

‘An Aboriginal woman stated that while she was in police custody in Townsville police officers alternated between saying ‘should we rape her’ and ‘should we hang her.’

Behrendt (2000, 64)

‘In terms of my faith in the court system, I believe that the police and the judicial system is designed to protect the perpetrators and get them the easiest sentence. There’s no support, there’s no validation, they sure as hell don’t believe Aboriginal women.’

Quoted in ‘Systemic responses continue to fail and traumatise Aboriginal Women who survive violence’

A police wagon slowly came around the corner and one of the girls suddenly ran onto the road and began hurling abuse at its lone male occupant. As the wagon slowed, I saw the policeman smirk at her, then raise his eyes and catch sight of me standing with her group of friends. He drove off.

‘He been rape me,’ she said angrily, by way of explanation for her actions. ‘In the cells, he been rape me.’ I was shocked by her candour.  

‘Yeah, he rooted all of us,’ one of her friends piped up.

…’Anytime he can take us off to the station.’

Roberta Sykes’ account of young girls’ experiences in country New South Wales, from her autobiography Snake Circle.  Read full excerpt here. [imagecaption] [/imagecaption]


On colonised ground, the function of the police is inseparable from the apparatus of occupation. On the frontier police operated as a paramilitary force that both actively participated in and tacitly sanctioned acts of extreme violence against Indigenous people, especially women and children. In addition to acts of killing, rape and forced dispersal, the police in Australia, as in Canada, participated in the removal of children from their families well into the twentieth century. In 1991, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released an inquiry into racist violence in Australia which details allegations of sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by white police officers against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls (88-89).

The ‘Broken Trust’ report released in December 2018 details historical and contemporary distrust between Indigenous communities in and around Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police Service in Canada, which is notorious for systemic racism. A Human Rights Watch investigation also documented Indigenous women’s accounts of police neglect when they reported domestic violence, as well as experiences of harassment and assault by police in Saskatchewan. Another Human Rights Watch report, ‘Those Who Take Us Away’, documents ongoing police failures to protect Indigenous women and girls from violence as well as violence perpetrated by police against them.



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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.