3 November 2022

Where is our anger for First Nation's children in the wake of Cassius Turvey's death?

| Zoya Patel
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Cassius Turvey Photo: Supplied.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story references a deceased person.

By now, you will have heard the name Cassius Turvey.

He was only 15 years old and is now dead after suffering serious injuries from being ambushed in broad daylight on his way home from school. His alleged murderer will face the courts, and we’ll see how that unfolds.

But the vigils being held across the country this week aren’t about what happens to that man – they are about what it means to this country for a blak child to be unable to safely walk the streets of his town.

And whether or not you attended a vigil in your city ultimately says something about the community’s level of regard for blak lives and racial equality in Australia, whether you like it or not.

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Community reactions to violent crimes are one way we show our shared anger and grief and send a strong and clear message to decision-makers and perpetrators about what matters to us.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen people rally around women who have been the victims of violent crimes and sexual assault, gathering in large numbers at vigils and protests to generate a sense of urgency in reacting and responding to these incidents. Importantly, these community actions have reinforced the need for broad social and cultural change, pointing out the systemic issues that are beyond the specifics of each individual case.

The same must happen now to signal our distress and anger at the loss of a young blak person’s life to call out the fact that we are simply not doing enough to end systemic racism and to protect First Nations young people in this country.

It’s easy to look at a case like Cassius’s and say, well, it was a horrific and random act of violence, and it could have happened to anyone. But the fact is, it didn’t – once again, it’s a First Nations child who has died, and he now becomes another alarming statistic.

In fact, First Nations people as a whole are more likely to be hospitalised due to assault than non-Indigenous Australians across age and location ranges.

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Much like when a high-profile case of sexual assault or violence against women highlights to the community the broader issue of gender inequality and women’s safety, Cassius’s death is a reminder to us all that the gap between the health, safety and life outcomes for First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous Australians is simply unjustifiable.

We need to learn from this tragedy and act to prevent not just assaults but the ongoing inequality faced by First Nations people across all critical areas of well-being – education, health, access to resources, employment, mental health, experiences of violence – all of it.

Typically, when a tragedy like this occurs to a white person, we see a whole-of-community reaction – yet, there are people within my own circles who had never even heard of Cassius as of this week. That upsets me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Systemic racism is insidious, and even people who hold values of racial equality and inclusion can enact their privilege by not engaging with issues like this because they simply don’t see it as affecting them.

It’s particularly hard to stomach, however, when I see the constant and unwavering attention given to issues where a white victim is the focus, especially in recent weeks. The contrast is bleak.

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This isn’t about pitting two tragedies against each other, it’s about noting the difference in our reactions and understanding why it exists. And it’s a pattern I have seen time and again, one that I have called out before and will continue to call out.

If you’re an ally, if you read an acknowledgement of country at events, if you post on social media for NAIDOC week, I hope you showed up to vigils for Cassius and his family. Share news articles, donate money to his family’s support fund, start conversations with your networks, and demand justice for Cassius and all First Nations children.

Your power and agency are needed now.

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William Newby8:36 pm 03 Nov 22

The interview said nothing of the sort, police specifically said not to jump to conclusions as the investigation was ongoing.
A terrible loss, no one would dispute this, but to frame it as race related is premature and reckless.
So frequently First Australians are attacked or raped by their own number, children left to wander the streets finding trouble, and yet always the journalism focuses on the failings of the hospitals, schools, legal system, police officers. Not once is there a mention of family responsibility.
I’m not suggesting this was the case here at all but we seem to be quick to blame the system over the victims environment in many of these cases.

Totally agree and yet the PM ANAL was quick to announce it as a recist attack on nationa TV. As the WAPOL Commissioner said there is an investigation in progress and for the media and others not to jump to any conclusion at this point in the investigation. Sadly the blame game is in full swing again.

HiddenDragon7:34 pm 03 Nov 22

The public events following the death of Cassius Turvey have no doubt been variously cathartic, healing and spiritual for the participants, but they will do about as much to change for the better the things lamented and raged at in this article as staying at home and binge watching the final season of The Good Fight.

Nonsense. Has been on the news every single night since it happened, as it will be again tonight. Indigenous people everywhere, including Canberra, are on the ABC news giving their opinion on this senseless and despicable crime. It suits your agenda to say it’s not being reported or is not receiving attention, but it’s simply not true.

I am an ally for this issue and a number of other social priorities, but I don’t attend many vigils or community events.

I have significant caring responsibilities and they don’t tend to be very easy to attend, accessible or timed in a way that works for our household. I support a very few (mostly disability related) events with attendance.

Everyone who cares cannot attend everything all the time.

Is it racist for a non-Indigenous person to intervene if indigenous people harm people in their own race, and people in their own family? Asking for a friend.

I don’t recall any vigils for Ivan Milat’s victims

A terrible thing to happen to any child. Even worse to use the tragedy to promote the usual shopping list of historic woes. There’s no proof that this was racially motivated and the police have wisely asked everyone to await due process.

The author attempts to claim we are all racist unless we all protest.

Their narrative is that there is some divide between people where some are openly for the criminal actions that the accused is alleged to have committed.

If we don’t actively denounce the racism that only they see, then we are all racists and for an action. Thats completely absurd. There is a disease of the mind that is affecting much of the American education system called Critical race theory. Its victims are no longer able to think for themselves.

If an event happens that doesn’t fit their narrative they just ignore it. We used to call them hypocrites now they call them allys.

Both the WA Premier and the Chief of Police called for people to let the police and the criminal justice system to deal with this issue, as opposed to staging rallies and protests.

A 21 year old man has now been charged with Cassius’ murder.

There are countless photos of Cassius in the media; a happy cheerful boy, with a beautiful smile and as if his death wasn’t a big enough tragedy, it came only a month after the death of his father from cancer.

And yet, despite all if this, this article rants about insidious racism, gender inequality, women’s safety and (white) privilege. It cheapens and politicises the death of a teenage boy with a beautiful smile.

“And yet, despite all if this, this article rants about insidious racism, gender inequality, women’s safety and (white) privilege. It cheapens and politicises the death of a teenage boy with a beautiful smile.”

What else did you expect from Ms Patel?

Two young girls about the same age had their lives cut short in Canberra just the other week. I don’t know what their race was, or the race of the kid driving the car. Where was this article then? I don’t recall days of national news and talk show appearances for that particular tragedy?

Very sloppy journalism here. Several assertions made without any evidence provided. Particularly that more attention is given when the victim is white.

At this stage I haven’t yet seen any evidence that racism was involved.

Agree. But try putting up a comment that goes against the narrative – I’ve had a couple of comments recently not put up by the RiotACT moderator/s that were not racist or anything of that nature. Just told the truth about a needle stick injury and “bang” – you’re banned.

I actually wonder if Ms Patel is paid per comment by Rioters?

There were 370 homicides across Australia last year, how many got vigils where thousands of people showed up to show solidarity across the country?

How many got wide ranging, whole of community (and whole of Australia) reaction regardless of the victim’s race, sex, age, circumstances etc?

This article is about as illogical as it gets, the idea that it reflects systemic racism is non sensical. If you wanted to argue that different victims get different levels of media/community attention in general then yes that’s correct. But if the author was honest with herself, she’d recognise that this applies to groups she’d claim were “privileged” as well. It’s not nearly as simplistic as she claims.

Capital Retro8:32 am 03 Nov 22

I don’t want to put the moccas on you c14 but I have to agree with what you say and especially the way you have expressed the facts. It’s like walking on egg shells when these matters need to be called out.

swaggieswaggie10:06 am 03 Nov 22

Well written and accurate Chewy, Zoya’s articles are sadly all the same mix of nonsensical statements assembled into what passes for a publishable article.

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