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The Dhadjowa Foundation; Empowering Aboriginal families whose loved ones have died in custody

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

The Dhadjowa Foundation, a grassroots and family-governed not-for-profit held its fundraising launch on April 3 in Melbourne. The organisation provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who have lost loved ones in custody with strategic, coordinated and culturally appropriate support.

The conception of this foundation comes at a pivotal moment in time, where fiveIndigenous Australians have died in police custody in just over one month.

Comprised of a board of Aboriginal individuals, whose family members have died in custody, the foundation is solely built to support families who have also lost loved ones in this way.

In a capacity which supports them on every level, they provide financial assistance, peer support, campaign building and media training. This holistic approach aims to reduce stress and make the process easier for grieving families.

Apryl Day founded the Dhadjowa Foundation after losing her mother Tanya Day, due to what she believes was a clear case of police negligence. The Coroner for the case deemed that her death would have been preventable, had police properly tended to her safety, health and welfare.

“It has been a really intense almost four years since mum died in 2017. When she died, we had no clue what to do. We had never had that immediate family member die in custody, so we weren’t sure of the legal proceedings, the media attention, what we should or shouldn’t be saying”

Apryl Day

The coronial investigation into her mother’s passing was grueling and traumatising. It took six months for Ms Day to find out the reason for her mother’s death.

Not only was there pressure from the coronial investigator for their statements, she was subject to watching CCTV footage several times and had to sit across from those who were responsible for her mother’s death. Ms Day recalls the ordeal as a very culturally unsafe space.

“There was absolutely no compassion or care for the grief that our family was experiencing. All they’re worried about is protecting themselves and their colleagues and lawyers are trying to pass the blame onto anybody else but the people involved,” Ms Day said.

The Dhadjowa Foundation was a vision she had following her mother’s inquest in 2019. She was motivated to create a safe space and platform to lessen the burden for people going through similar experiences.

Tanya Day is one of the 450 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals who have died in police custody since the royal commission in 1991.

The launch for Apryl and her co-founders has been deeply emotional, she called it a perfect, moving, powerful and emotional day.

“It was really beautiful to have all the families and community together and sharing the stories of our loved ones and our hopes for the future, for the foundation and for our people.”

Apryl Day

Although there are Aboriginal legal services available, the foundation provides support for families in a unique way, addressing the emotional and financial burdens, as well as the legal.

The Dhadjowa Foundation is solely dependent on donations. You can donate here via the Australian Communities Foundation and visit their website at https://dhadjowa.com.au/.

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Lara Shearer

Lara graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts (Hon.), with majors in journalism and human rights and went on to complete an Honours year in Journalism. Lara is a podcast producer for Triple R, was a contributing writer to Esperanto Magazine and has done freelance writing. With a passion for storytelling and moving people, she has an avid interest in documentary filmmaking and podcasting. Lara was drawn to The Advocate because she doesn't want a cog in the machine role, she wants to be part of something special and thus have a positive impact.

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