PREVENT ANOTHER ABORIGINAL DEATH IN CUSTODY

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FREE JOHN, A TERMINALLY ILL INDIGENOUS MAN, FROM IMMIGRATION DETENTION BEFORE HE DIES
 
Receiving palliative care should be an experience of comfort, with family in attendance and every care offered as a life draws towards a close.  For one elderly First Nations man, however, this section of his life’s journey is encompassed by stress, legal wrangling and separation from his loved ones, including his partner who is a member of the Stolen Generation.
 
Mr John Webster, who identifies and claims lineage as a Wathaurong man from Victoria, and who is a New Zealand citizen, is currently in immigration detention. John has metastatic cancer and polycystic kidney disease, and has been given only a short time to live. After the High Court’s ruling in Love v The Commonwealth (2020) that Aboriginal Australians cannot be regarded as aliens under the Constitution, we took John’s case to the Federal Court to fight for his right to release and to die with his family. 

The Federal Court recognised John as biologically Aboriginal and acknowledged that he identified as Aboriginal.  However, as John was recognised as Aboriginal by the Yunupingu mob and not the Wathaurong, he was found not to be "Aboriginal enough" to be released from detention.
 
With those in detention currently at high risk of contracting Covid-19 due to the sharing of dormitories, cafeterias and bathrooms, John faces not only an extreme risk due to his compromised immune system, but is also unable to receive the level of palliative care he could expect if he was in the community. At present, John has to walk 200 metres to get his medications, twice a day, and has to stop twice to rest each time, all while under guard.
 
Moreover, he remains separated from family members who are ready and willing to care for him in his final days, due to all family visits being stopped for those in immigration detention.  Further, he cannot be deported to New Zealand as none are currently taking place due to the pandemic. 

His sister, Raewyn, says, “I only have my brother left in my life”.
 
While millions of dollars continue to be wasted on proving how punitive the Australian government can be, individuals like Mr Webster are denied dignity that could be granted with the stroke of a pen.  This is another potential Indigenous death in custody that can so easily be avoided. 

Please sign and share to demand that Ken Wyatt, Peter Dutton, Alan Tudge and the Department of Home Affairs release John to spend the remainder of his life surrounded by the care and love of his family.