TRANSCRIPT: EPISODE 2
(CLIPS to set to background song: Simona Castricum’s The Half Light)
Roz: I was walking my dogs one of the days and they were driving around the neighborhood like kind of slowly checking everyone out…
Travis: I haven't had any interactions with legal people. Thankfully.
Darcy: Welcome to Transdemic: Trans and Gender Diverse Experiences of the Global Pandemic.
Sam: We are recording this episode on the stolen land of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. This week we’d like to particularly acknowledge the work of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, who you’ll be hearing from throughout this episode. You can donate to them at https://www.facebook.com/WARcollective, and we’ll put their bank details in our episode transcript (Melbourne: WAR/RISE ANZ BSB: 013128 Account: 220584933).
Gemma: We would like to acknowledge the support of our gold partner, Drummond Street Services’ Queerspace, who provide counselling and peer support for LGBTIQ+ people, and professional development for organisations who work with LGBTIQ + people and their families. Queerspace is also the proud home to some of Victoria’s leading LGBTIQ+ community advocacy groups including Transgender Victoria, Parents of Gender Diverse Children and Rainbow Families Victoria. Contact 03 9663 6733 or head to queerspace.org.au to find out more.
Sam: Just a note before we start: this episode contains references to mental health issues, suicide and difficulties accessing gender affirming healthcare issues that some of our listeners might find distressing. If you need support, contact Qlife on 1800 184 627 or lifeline on 13 11 14.
Sam: Welcome to Episode two of our four part series: Policing the Pandemic. But first, some quick introductions. My name is Sam Elkin, and I am a trans masculine writer, podcaster and community lawyer.
Darcy: My name is Darcy I'm a trans masculine person working as a doctor in rural hospitals.
Gemma: And I'm Gemma Cafarella, I'm a cisgender woman, a radio presenter and podcaster. And I'm also a community lawyer.
Sam: And we’re recording these episodes in in Naarm, or Melbourne, in July 2020. So in this episode we’re looking into the way that the governments and justice system in Australia has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gemma: And even as we are recording this things are changing fast here in Victoria, which, unlike the rest of the country, is dealing with a significant spike in COVID-19 infections.
Darcy: Police enforcing lockdown measures were always more present in poorer areas, despite numbers initially being higher in more affluent areas. The Victorian government has specifically targeted residents of nine public housing estates by putting them in detention without warning in their units, for up to 24 days. In the wake of the black lives matter movement, it appears that the government has not been listening to public sentiment around the injustice of targeting and over-policing certain members of the community.
Gemma: One of the most telling aspects of the government’s class and race response to the government’s response seems to be that while the residents of the nine locked down towers are being guarded by armed police, people in private houses nearby those estates are being trusted to just comply with the stay at home orders that much of the state is experiencing.
Sam: It has been quite a shocking change of affairs here in Victoria, yeah and I feel like we’re still really reeling from it. I mean, there’s been new suburban lockdowns and criticism that the northern and western suburbs are being unfairly locked down when they weren’t the ones that originally brought the virus in and the wealthier areas of Boroondara and Stonnington that weren’t locked down initially, but this is a whole new level of…scariness, basically (nervous laughter). I mean I can’t imagine this happening in one of the big posh housing complexes on St Kilda Rd, you can’t imagine 500 police being stationed there, so it really does smack of racism and classism, it’s hard to know how else to think about it.
Gemma: There’s actually a really long history of troubling policing in and around the estates that are being locked down. So for example in 2013, there was a big legal case where the police and the state settled with a number of mainly men African complainants, who had litigated around the issue of racial profiling. And so that’s the context in which we now see 500 armed police officers turning up in these apartments with absolutely no notice and having police stationed on every floor. It’s a really troubling development.
Sam: It’s also leading to some interesting discussions that haven’t really been had that seriously Victoria yet, including for example the union movement and its relationship with the Police association. So, Victoria Trades Hall Council’s Migrant Workers Centre initially set up a fundraiser to provide direct support to people in the towers, and people questioned, quite fairly, well “Why is it that Trades Hall Council is focussing on direct material aid, when they are actually a direct recipient of Police Union affiliation fees, maybe they should be pushing the Labour government here in Victoria harder to actually not over police these communities, and to actually stand down the police and implement a health response, instead of a police response.
Gemma: It is also worth noting that these are the updates that we have right now, and things are changing every day, and indeed sometimes every hour…
Transition Sound effect
COVID Safe App
Gemma: So a few months into the pandemic the Australian government that they had developed and were releasing a new app for peoples phones that would track their movements and be able to provide information either if that person tested positive or if they had been in the vicinity to someone else who had tested positive. It was something that was really controversial. Civil libertarians were quite opposed to the app on the basis that there wasn’t sufficient protections for peoples personal information, and a lot of minority communities were certainly unwilling to give the Federal Government who has a pretty bad track record on the way that it deals with different communities a whole bunch of personal information, including obviously their movements.
Sam: Have either of you downloaded the COVID safe app?
Gemma: I didn’t. I felt really conflicted about it, because, you know, I want to feel as though I am a good person and that I’m doing the right thing and helping to keep the community safe. But I also frankly don’t trust the Federal Government with my personal information to that degree. I’m a person who lives pretty openly online, and I have my full name on a lot of my social media accounts, which people are always telling me is a bad idea (laughs), and so a lot of people were saying “Well you give your information freely to all these social media companies” and I read a really great article that pointed out that these social media companies might have our information but they don’t have the capacity to use that information to bash our front doors in in the middle of the night and arrest us, which the state does. So I haven’t downloaded it, and now that I’ve read that it hasn’t detected a single case of transmission, I don’t feel bad about that.
Sam: This is not the first time that trans and gender diverse people have had issues with a new app or government support, there was the My Health Record debacle (laughs) that happened over the last 12 to 24 months. I think a lot of people in the trans and gender diverse community were very hesitant to have a my health record because they were worried about the way that that data would be used to discriminate against them when accessing healthcare. So I in the spirt of not wanting my health record, also didn’t want to sign up to COVIDsafe, because I thought, well this government doesn’t have a great track record with trans and gender diverse peoples information, and also there was that super (Superannuation) scandal that happened the same week where fraudsters managed to hack into the ATO (Australian Tax Office) super funds and heaps of people lost their money, so that was another reason. But I asked Asiel who you heard from in the last episode, who is a doctor at Northside clinic, what they thought of the app.
Asiel: I think there's a lot of mistrust of anything that kind of comes from a government level um in the community in general. And you know, because the- particularly the trans and gender diverse community, you know, have a long history of being targeted, ostracized, discriminated by the government. So there's no guarantees that the information there might- might not be used for other means that you might not necessarily be aware that you're consenting to or that you might not have consented to period. Um I think there is a lot of anxiety around using the app. And for the most part, the- the few people that I've spoken to, because it's not something that I necessarily bring up in- in consultation, um have been very hesitant to- to use it. Um again, particularly for the trans and gender diverse community. So I think that the um kind of discussion and the discourse that happened around My Health Record is- is very much still hanging around. Um and there's still a lot of concerns around, you know, how is that information going to be used um and whether or not it's going to be detrimental to myself. Um and again, I do share some of those concerns. And it puts me in a really conflicted spot because on the one hand, I'm like, aw it'd be great to actually have this- this information to be able to- to help the contact tracing and you know, um containing some of the- the breakouts if they do happen. And uh- but at the same time, yeah, I completely understand where people are coming from.
Sam: These anxieties were reflected in many of the conversations I had with the 25 trans and gender diverse people from across Australia, particularly those who had been touched by interactions with the psychiatric systems.
Emma: Two friends who've been involuntarily incarcerated for psychiatric reasons in the past brought up their anxiety in a conversation online about the- the COVID safe app. And I noticed this huge divide in the people responding to that were the people who were really cautious about it either had been incarcerated or felt like they could be incarcerated against their will. There was a- there was a really clear line about people who didn't- didn't want to install it and people who did. And the people who didn't want to install it were like either, 'I have been incarcerated against my will and this app scares the shit out of me,' or 'I really think that this app is going to be used in order to round me up at some point.' Yeah, and those people were scared and people who didn't worry about that weren't scared and so were happy to install it.
Sam: So when I originally decided I wanted to do this podcast, probably the first thing on my mind was wanting to find out how sex workers were experiencing the pandemic, and particularly trans and gender diverse sex workers.
Dylan: My name is Dylan O'Hara, my pronouns die and then I'm a trans masculine non binary person from from New Zealand originally now living on the unseeded lands of the Kulin nations. I'm a sex worker and I am also a committee member for vixen collective, which is Victoria's sex worker only care organization.
Dylan: In terms of the restrictions on sex work specifically, look, it's- it's been really, really hard. In Victoria, there's been really conflicting messaging from government throughout the whole lockdown about what kinds of sex work can and can't happen. In terms of in-person sex work, brothels are closed. But with a- people who are private sex workers, so who- who are working by themselves and going to see clients and things like that, whether they can work or not- there's being directly contradictory information released by different parts of government to our community, which has been really, really challenging. You know, it's this time that's so stressful for so many people, right? But, then sex workers in Victoria are already in general- are already discriminated against in so many ways, and already live in Victoria with this kind of arcane and incredibly difficult to navigate legal system of licensing that doesn't provide any support for sex workers. The lack of communication, where you've had police saying something, you've had one part of government saying another thing, another part saying something different. It's honestly been kind of a slap in the face is how it's felt. It's just huge confusion and anxiety for people who are already really, really struggling. You know, sex workers don't have sick leave, we don't have holiday pay. And now we're at a point where there is no clear return to work date or plan for brothel-based sex workers in Victoria. And it's hard not to view that simply as discrimination and stigma at this point and not having really a lot to do with any kind of evidence base. Because you can get a Brazilian wax now, right? In Victoria, you can get a relaxation-based massage. But there's no information about when brothels can return. And the information now and- that the department, DHHS, has put out about this on their website, that private workers can work, that it says specifically that escort services can operate. And so if that can happen, and these other kinds of personal services businesses can operate, you know, with plans in place, then why is that not the case for sex workers? It's also deeply demoralising. And because of the messaging that has been confusing from the government, it's been confusing to the extent that the police certainly- the Sex Industry Coordination Unit (SICU) and also broader VicPol have been operating on information that private sex work is not permitted- until very recently that seems to be what they were operating on. And so they have been contacting our community. And people have been getting messages from- from police that they have to be in contact and told that they're- that they might be breaking the law. People are very confused, because they don't know what- if the government's telling you one thing and then also the government is telling you a different thing, it's very hard to know. So I think sex workers have been operating in good faith and have been really proactive with the pandemic actually. Sex workers have been operating in good faith. It's not a coincidence, I don't think, that the two states with no really return to work date are Queensland and Victoria, the states with licensing systems. Already operating in a system where many workers are forced to work non-compliantly because we have this two tiered legal slash- compliant and noncompliant- or sometimes described as illegal industry- I would say compliant and noncompliant. So- and then now we've had the situation where sex workers are operating in good faith trying to follow the COVID-19 restrictions, but have been getting mixed information and have been being, you know, have been being um contacted by- by police. And I think that's really upsetting. I think there are so many reasons why it's damaging for sex workers, and particularly sex workers who are also people of colour, sex workers who are disabled, sex workers who are trans and gender diverse. There are so many reasons why that level of police contact is damaging, even if it doesn't end in a fine, right? Even if there's not a consequence, an infraction issued at the end of it, but still having to deal with police. It's really anxiety inducing. It's really scary. I know that anytime that I see any kind of communication from the police, even if I know what it's about and it's nothing to do with something terrible, my whole body freezes up. I immediately feel nauseous. I honestly feel that it's really negligent. And if it's the case that actually private work was supposed to be allowed this whole time, that actually means that the government has allowed part of the community to just be contacted all the time by the police for no reason, which to me feels discriminatory and negligent, honestly really upsetting. I'm in a role in an organization where, along with other sex workers, I've spent a lot of time responding to stuff like this. And I'm a sex worker myself as well so this is also my life. Yeah, it's really upsetting. I feel really angry about it. It is possible that they have suffered loss of income. And it's also possible that they've been contacted by police and told that they are breaking the law. Incidentally, if any sex workers are listening to this, private sex workers in Victoria have had contact from police during this time, please reach out to Vixen Collective to talk about it so we can support you through that process. It's just been like a Kafkaesque nightmare, honestly. But the information on the website simply says that escort services can operate. It doesn't have a start date. And there's been an interpretation of the restrictions the entire time that said that private workers could work, but there's also been- from government, I should say, but there's also been an interpretation that they couldn't. And because the police had the information that they couldn't, that's the interpretation that has been enforced. So, if it's in fact the case that that was never the intention, then yeah, I think that's a pretty big deal. This is what happens to sex worker communities. It's pretty common.
Policing the Pandemic
Teddy: There has been an increased level of fear particularly I think among trans people who are living in the world visibly trans or who manifest their gender expression in wonderful ways that might draw attention to themselves by police, and- and also people who- whose name and gender isn't reflected on their legal documentation- fear that they will be more likely to be targeted if they're going to work. And you know, and we- we also know that trans people are much more likely to be underemployed and working in environments that perhaps have continued during this time where they've been more at risk of acquiring COVID-19. So there's been, I think, a real- um a real focus and fear on being picked up by police as they're going about their day and being questioned and being very concerned about being vulnerable to- to violence over surveillance.
Simona: Policing of space has been- I've just had to be really hyper aware and if I am going to be out, what's my reason? I better have a really good reason because if I am going to get stopped, is my transness going to make me more suspicious? And I guess anyone else would have felt that they needed a good reason, but as a trans person being stopped by a regional cop, I wasn't gonna risk it without like a really good um you know, like a letter from my psych saying, 'Well, this is why I'm driving where I am.' You know, that- that's just something that comes I guess out of the trust, you know, in the- in the community, I think has significantly been eroded of law enforcement officers.
Simona: I mean, the interesting thing that happened is at the start of COVID was that ye- there were three real knockdown incidents that just really took away, I guess, trust in law and justice and policing was the George Pell verdict being overturned, the findings into Nik Dimopoulos' assault by Victoria Police, no criminal charges or weren't in breach of, you know any standards apart from his human rights of course. And then there was the Dean Laidley incident and I think there was a moment where like what's going to happen next?
Dylan: I think that fining people tends to be a pretty ineffective tool. And it tends to, of course, disproportionately punish poor people, marginalised people who are more likely to be targeted in the first place and then more likely to really struggle to pay fines. And for people who are less likely to be targeted or are better off, it's not really a big deal, right? You know, if you look at like a- an individual fine of 1652-something-whatever-it-is, on the spot, individual fine- if I got to fine like that, speaking personally, that would be a big deal for me, like that would be a big problem. I don't have 1600 dollars. But you know, there are obviously people for whom that probably wouldn't be a big deal at all, who have more money. I think as well, it's like, if you look at fines, where fining its used in different jurisdictions for sex work, fining is really stupid, right? Because if you're working because you need money and then you get caught working noncompliantly in some way, or you're working in a fully criminalised environment and then you get fined, then what are you going to do to pay off the fine? You're gonna go out and work again, right? And so people actually get stuck in these horrible cycles of- of getting fined for something and then having to do it again to pay off the fine and then they get- might get fined again and you know, so on and so forth. I think we can see what happens when fines are treated in terms of- in Western Australia with imprisonment for fines. So I think- personally, I think it's a terrible public health tool and not a very helpful tool at all.
Courts and Prisons
Witt: So my name's Witt. I am 32. I identify as trans non-binary. I use they/them pronouns. I live on Wurundjeri country in Brunswick in Narrm. And I am a social worker by profession? Yeah!
Witt: I am a social worker at- within the Police Accountability Project. Since COVID kicked off, the government has had a- a kind of a punitive and carceral approach, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. What we've witnessed is over-policing and sort of the abuse of- of those powers by police, particularly in certain areas? So, particularly in the West and in Frankston, in Dandenong. And when you look around whose getting fines, who's receiving fines, it's certainly specific to people of colour, Aboriginal communities um that are being targeted and communities that are already marginalised. And I think that's not surprising of policing anyway but also reflects a lot of- about privilege- who can isolate, who has safe housing, obviously, you know, there's a lot of also issues in terms of family violence, and that really, for trans and queer people that can be a really huge issue. So in terms of being able to be safe at home, have a safe home to go to. And then if you base rules off access to those kinds of spaces then of course you're gonna see particular groups heavily targeted and misuse of police powers target those groups. Data is being collected around that and it'll be interesting to see in the next six months the reporting around it. Certainly all stories are indicating that- that police have misused their powers and have used COVID as a way to- to criminalise certain people.
Sam: I asked Witt how COVID-19 has been affecting courts and the kinds of services that people interacting with courts might access.
Witt: It's drawn out a lot of people's court matters, particularly if there's family violence court matters, its extended things. The weight on people when they're waiting for things to proceed, it can be quite traumatic as well in itself, like the anxiety of waiting for those things to go ahead?
Sam: I also asked Witt about the kinds of services that people interacting with courts might access.
Witt: All rehabs at the moment, all detoxes and those sorts of facilities, most of them have halved their beds because of social distancing requirements. So, say you've got one of the few detox facilities or one of your rehabs that maybe has 80 beds typically now only has 40. And that has a really flow on effect for what people's support options are, particularly for people that are seeking parole or trying to get out of prison and they don't have those options at the moment. That was a- has been a really big issue. And crisis accommodation is in the similar boat, really limited resources and in- in a time when everyone's in crisis. Who would agree but then when you've been criminalised or you're homeless or dealing with addiction- it's been a real pressure cooker for people, is how I'd describe it.
Sam: Witt has also had a lot of contact with trans and gender diverse people in prison.
Darcy: What is the general situation for trans and gender diverse people in prison, I know a lot of people aren’t sure which prison a trans woman, say for example, would get put into.
Gemma: Yes it’s not generally like Laverne Cox’s character in Orange is the New Black. Most trans women are still incarcerated in men’s prisons in Victoria and around the country, and there are calls to change this.
Witt: For people who are incarcerated, especially for trans people, it's you know, it's already so incredibly isolating and unsafe. So, the conversations I've had with people is it's created that pressure cooker effect being locked down for several days at a time, not knowing when lockdowns are going to end, difficulties around accessing- so, in some facilities, people having to use detergent or whatever's around, not being provided with the right preventative equipment. I haven't heard of anyone being released despite calls for that. And the other issue is that even though we're seeing a reduction in the restrictions in the community and an easing of these restrictions, we're not seeing it in the prisons. And there's real concern about- well now that some of these things have come into play in the prisons are they going to reduce restrictions or are they going to keep holding it up? I don't know if it was raised down here, but certainly in New South Wales, there's concerns raised- there was restrictions around mail going in. They were saying you know, that mail was a safety concern in terms of- of COVID being transferred. And then that flowed on to them saying, 'Oh, you know, mail can often be used as well to allow drugs into the prisons.' And then it was a conversation about, well, maybe they'll ban mail long term, like personal mail. It makes it easier for more control mechanisms to come into play and for human rights to be pushed back for people. So that's a really big concern. And I think it's really important that we keep a close eye on what's happening in the prisons, because I think it's easy for us to just forget about- and when we're in the community and when we're already part of groups that experience marginalisation, we can forget about people in the prison system that those issues are even more amplified in those very punitive, very gendered environments. So, I think it's really important we keep an eye on the prisons and hold them accountable, and make sure that people's human rights aren't violated.
Sam: I asked Witt about the risks to people in prison and COVID-19.
Witt: We've seen it in the US and the UK and there's been death because once COVID gets in, it spreads quite rapidly and the general health of people in prison can be not particularly great. There's a lot of complex health conditions that people may be experiencing already. In the States it certainly really impacted elderly people in custody. And there's been a huge amount of- of death in the prisons. And it's also a tricky thing too, because prisons are very good at protecting themselves and so information that- when family are already restricted from contact and that sort of thing, I think it's been hard to get information about what's been going on. But yeah, there's been horrific footage of makeshift hospital- been very fortunate there haven't been a- a widespread outbreak, not that it isn't a potential risk at all times while the virus still exists. They were making makeshift hospitals in New South Wales prisons anticipating outbreak and they did that in the States and you know, people were sort of just locked up in and segregated in these- their own little wings, you know, left in a lot of ways to battle this virus. And when it gets into the prisons, it's horrific and the health care in prisons is so appalling anyway, that for a virus like this to hit a prison is terrifying and yet people- a high risk of people losing their lives.
Darcy: And this is something Tarneen, another social worker, who will we’ll hear more from shortly, echoed, when recounting comments made by female prisoners.
Tarneen: (the prisoner said) “We don't know who's bringing what into this prison. All we have to do is trust that youse have been self-isolating on the outside because they don't give a fuck about us and they won't care if we die if Coronavirus gets in here.” I think that's telling about the health services in there and the lack of care that women get in prison. I just don't want to be one of the reasons why the Coronavirus gets in there. And obviously, the prison guards in that pose a huge risk to the people that are incarcerated. And I just think that they don't care about Aboriginal women particularly but also women that are incarcerated. They were able to get soap at the canteen, they would have to purchase it. It's really good that they were able to access it though as there wasn’t much of a supply in Australia, but the thing that sucked is that they had to pay for it in the first place. This is something that the government should have sent the bill for since we're in a pandemic.
Sam: I asked Witt about what the experience of prisoners have been who have been in lockdown.
Witt: The prisons don't give much information to people at the best of times. I think it was pretty scary. You know, if you think about being locked down, not knowing how long you're gonna be locked down for, seeing people walking around in um PPE and there's this quite an immediate response from the prison and you have no control over what's going to happen. Yeah, that's pretty scary. Scary situation.
Witt: One person actually said that she liked elements of the lockdown because she felt safer. Because typically she experiences so much sexual harassment within the prison as a trans woman that it was one of the few moments where she didn't have to worry about that. Which, you know, of itself is horrific that that's her experience because she is trying to survive in a men's prison. She shouldn't need to be locked down to experience safety. Incredibly detrimental on a long term basis for someone to be locked down in a cell. So that's, you know, really disturbing actually.
Darcy: Another big issue we’ve seen during COVID-19 is an upsurge in anti-Chinese racism.
Jinghua: My name is Jinghua. Uh my pronouns are ey/em/eir. And I live in Footscray. And I am a writer. That's probably all you really need to know about me. What's been really frustrating for me is that like a lot of the conversation around racism, even from media outlets that I think are- or from journalists, who individually I think are like quite sympathetic to and attentive to racism as a systemic issue, a lot of the coverage of Sinophobia has been around, you know, these assaults and public attacks without much discussion on how first like the media has- the Australian media has um had a huge role in promoting racist discourse by- I think, primarily by like not really disambiguating between the government of the People's Republic of China and Chinese people and letting that blurriness persist in- in public discourse for years now. Which I think we've seen in- in every conversation. So I think that's really frightening. That to me is much more frightening. The prospect of being a Chinese Australian living through a cold war between China and Australia, that to me is a lot more frightening than the individual incidences of being screamed at. I don't know, I've been screamed at my whole life. It's not- like that's not to say it's not a bad- but I know not to take that personally. Whereas the kind of sustained suspicion towards Chinese people in public discourse, that's something that I think has escalated pretty noticeably and that affects me a lot. As a writer, as an activist, as you know, a person who sometimes has opinions like on the internet um, you know being yeah harassed every time I post, that's affected me more. In Australia, there's like a real tendency to only look at a racist screaming on the train and- and I think also like to look at racism coming from poor and working class people more than the racism of people in power. That's very much like the dynamic that Sinohobia has been. Yeah, that's really structured how Sinophobia is understood and discussed in Australia.
Black Lives Matter
Sam: And then of course there’s the incredible unfolding of the global black lives matter movement.
Witt: It's a huge moment in history in terms of critically looking at the systems that we have and the police and carceral responses. And we are seeing, you know, in Minneapolis, we're seeing the defunding of the police. We're seeing, in New Zealand, the disarming of the police. We're seeing, you know, just over the weekend, organisers, Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, organising some of the biggest protests we've ever seen on this continent against police violence. So I think we are in a very interesting time where we all need to be reflecting on what kind of world we want to live in and what it means to live in a world without police and prisons. I think now the questions that we're asking now- we've jumped ahead a bit and it's conversations now about abolishing police, which is very interesting and also necessary 'cause reforms we've seen haven't worked and people are still dying. Black people are still being killed by the police. And Aboriginal people here, we know that 437, I think, is now the- the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. That's risen just this week. Aboriginal man died in custody during the Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday in a prison in Western Australia. So it is time for serious, not just imaginings of- of possibilities, but actual action in relation to the world that we're now living in. You know, and that relates to COVID, but also, you know this is the build up of so many things of- here, hundreds of years of colonisation and white supremacy and we- as a white person, I- I know I need to be accountable so that we all- as- white people need to be accountable to what that- that violence has meant for Black people, Aboriginal people globally. Yeah, we all have a responsibility to be listening to Black Lives Matter, to the movement and what's being asked.
Asiel: COVID-19 in a way has been um used as a political tool to highlight some of those power imbalances. So for example, in the way that it's fed into things like white supremacy, in the way that it's fed into um incarceration, in the way that it's fed into um refugee and asylum seeker rights um yeah has been- has been quite- quite interesting. And um in a way used to kind of amplify those- those kind of human rights violations really.
Teddy: One of the things that is so incredibly important at the moment is how we're showing up for sister girls and brother boys and other First Nations trans people and people of color who are trans and who are most vulnerable and marginalised across all of the populations of trans people. You know, we see people who are Aboriginal and trans and people of color who are trans who are being murdered overseas on a daily basis and who are living in environments that are absolutely unsafe and not okay. And as a community, it is our responsibility and our purpose, I think, in many ways to ensure that we are raising the profile and elevating the voices of people in our communities who- who must have a voice and who are so important to our movement. And our movement being that of full autonomy and self determination for every trans person in the world just casually. So, in this time where people are taking to the streets, ceding seats, holding a- an intersectional view of all of the things that we are doing has never been more important. I'm very proud to stand in solidarity with sister girls and brother boys, other trans indigenous and First Nations people and trans people of color and will continue to do so in my work.
Tarneen: Hi my name is Tarneen Onus-Williams and I'm a proud condition Gunditjmara, Bindal, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander person and I live in Melbourne, I use they/them pronouns. And I guess a little bit about my gender identity is that I feel more comfortable being called a black woman instead of just a woman, I feel as though those things are very starkly different, I think because the way that white people express their gender is much different than ours as a community. And that is why I use they/them pronouns, particularly for non-Aboriginal people. And also because I just feel like I don't fit in to the constraint of womanhood in a white way. And I think that the roles of women in my community are very different. And I think they're much more masculine than that of white women in this country or around the world and I’m trying to recognize gender in my culture. I express myself in a way that is through being Aboriginal and the way that I've tried to feel more comfortable in my body as a black woman rather than just a woman.
Darcy: Tarneen went onto explain their interactions with Victoria Police.
So I have had no interactions with Police, I guess until recently, I think I was really lucky in that we were kind of living in a really nice uppity suburb. And so I was speaking to other people who live in Reservoir and there was lots of Police pulling people people over and my experience living in like a fancier area than some other people meant I didn't experience that and didn't have interactions with the police. My interactions with the Police were in the start of June when Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, which is a group that I am a part of organized a Black Lives Matter rally after the death of George Floyd. And we really wanted to draw attention to the black deaths in custody in this country and to the Aboriginal people who have died and really give voice to the Aboriginal families who have had family members die at the hands of police in prisons. That was really important for us to do that. And we had national critique for organizing this rally. And that was really difficult because the Police were really heavy handed, and there was news that broke that a senior member of government had said that there was going to be spitting at the rally, but we organized 50,000 masks from the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, which is an Aboriginal community controlled health organization, so we had all these masks to protect people from Coronavirus at the rally. We took all the precautions so for the government in place to say that there was going to be spitting and the police were trying to give reason through the media to be violent and to try and ban our protest was really difficult. And we ended up getting fined from Victoria Police. The three organizers that got the fines and they were $1,652, which we think is really ridiculous because we are the only people in the country that got fines for organising protests, even though there so many around the country, neither did the 5G protesters, they didn’t get fined either. So I know that now we've been fined, there's the brumby culling protesters and the refugee protesters as well, and they have all been told that they're going to be fined if they've organise rallies this weekend, and if the protests go ahead this weekend. Aboriginal people were the testing ground for these Police fines to be issued which is really disappointing and really racist considering other people didn't get fined. This was specifically targeting Aboriginal people and Aboriginal women. So this is something that shows that the police intentionally and publicly being racist towards us for fighting for Black Lives in this country and around the world. It makes me really frustrated because the police have just proved the point of why these rallies have to ahead because we have been telling people that these rallies are an essential service, and we hundred percent support this essential service. If I'm able to be a social worker, if there's hospitals open, then we should be able to hold a protest against the killing of black people in this country and around the world.
Darcy: Tarneen went onto explain the amazing job they did of getting personal protective equipment at the rally.
Tarneen: I think that's one thing that Aboriginal organizations are incredibly good at is harm minimization. We do really good harm minimization for drug use, we do good harm minimization for sexual health and physical health, thse are all things that Aboriginal Health Services take the lead on. And this was just another way that Aboriginal Health Sector showed that they are serious about Aboriginal people's health, and that they're serious about protecting our community. And, and they really actioned that and supported us. And they came out with public statements, and they really went above and beyond and they had their staff out there on the streets handing out hand sanitizer and masks. It was a huge win for the Aboriginal health sector, to show that our communities can be protesting and “this we're going to do to support them”. I've asked the governments as well, if there’s going to be protests, what is government going to do to protect people instead of criminalizing them? And I think that's what this country is really good at is criminalizing people right? Instead of minimizing the harm.
Sam: I asked Sandy what they thought of the black lives matter movement.
Sandy: And it's interesting because when the horrible events of the last little while- the death of George Floyd as well as the- the reminder of what's happened in terms of deaths in custody in Australia, for the broader public, suddenly it was okay to be talking about that again in the context of the pandemic. And it's not like you don't ever stop being Aboriginal or transgender. You know, you don't stop being those things.
Sam: I asked Sandy what the emergence of the black lives matter movement had done for their mental health.
Sandy: It's been better. I've been feeling better because the- the momentum that has happened over the last couple of weeks with Black Lives Matter protests around the country, but also people seeking information has meant that I could do some agentic works and work to really build agency.
Roz: For me, the protest felt essential, whereas other people have gathered for religious purposes, which may feel essential to them. And I guess it just gets into some like philosophical debates and stuff that I wouldn't even begin to unpack right now. But I am aware of it and all- like all of the conflict in it, all the tension there…
Darcy: Thanks for joining us, see you next week for episode three, which will be about Social Isolation and Love Online.