Ms Dhu 9a - Marked for Death


Bodies Marked for Death

[imagecaption]Chant in solidarity with the family of Ms Dhu to mark the 2nd Anniversary of her death, Nauru camp, 2016.[/imagecaption]

Racialised bodies are marked for death in the colonial pursuit to deny Indigenous sovereignty and perform the sovereignty of the Australian nation state. This is demonstrated through the offshore killings on PNG and Nauru where the bodies of asylum seekers and refugees are weaponised to ‘deter’ prospective asylum seekers from challenging Australia’s ‘sovereign borders’. The interlinked nature of these deaths has been acknowledged in displays of solidarity between prisoners held on Nauru and anti-deaths in custody campaigns.


‘Ms Dhu’s pre-existing and extensive infection was not diagnosed at HHC. By this stage her osteomyelitus was well established. The manner of Ms Dhu’s death is by way of natural causes.’

State Coroner Rosalinda Fogliani

The narrative of Ms Dhu’s demise as an unavoidable one haunts the inquest and its findings. The Coroner framed Ms Dhu’s death as ‘tragic’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘regrettable’ and ‘sad’. The law was unable or unwilling to see the violence that Ms Dhu was subjected to by Dion Ruffin, by the police and by medical professionals,  all of whom were effectively exonerated. The denials, delays, verbal and physical abuse, misdiagnosis, non-diagnosis and active neglect by the state and it agents, were largely invisible to the law and to the formal record.

Sherene Razack writes of how the deaths of Indigenous people in custody are persistently ‘medicalized’. She argues that Indigenous bodies are regarded as bodies already marked for death. ‘The inquest stages Aboriginality as dysfunction, incurable illness, and threat to the healthy social body. Both an event and a place, the inquest transforms the colonial condition into a medical one, legitimizing the violence that is performed at the police station, on the streets and in the hospital, wherever settlers encounter Aboriginal people and demarcate between the human and less than human through acts of violence described as help.’ (Razack, Timely Deaths)



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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.