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  • Nicole O'Loughlin

UDHR Quilts at Museum of Australian Democracy


Last year I answered a call out on Instagram by artist Tal Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Dunlop

to participate in a project stitching an A4 size square in with an article of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. My article was Article 5, ' No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'. I responded to this article addressing the continual Indigenous deaths in custody tragedies that occur in Australia's prison system.

For this article I wanted to reflect on the Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia. On May 9th 1991 The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in parliament. The purpose and proposed outcome of the commission was to highlight ways in which the judicial system was allowing this to happen. There were proposed measures outlined in the report which states in Australia were urged to put into place. Victoria is the only state which has implemented them all. In 2016 25 years since the Royal Commission, deaths in custody of the indigenous population has in fact risen. With a huge increase of female indigenous persons incarcerated, a lot of the time for minor offences, such as unpaid fines and drinking in the streets.

This matter should be important to all Australians. There needs to be acknowledgment of the faults with the judicial system and its treatment of Indigenous Australians. It is a breach of the United Declaration of Human Rights.

I chose to depict the hands of an indigenous woman stitched into a grey prison blanket like material (taken from a second hand coat rather than using a blanket during winter that someone could use). The text in red highlights the urgent attention that needs to be brought to this issue. I finished off the section with a blanket stitch. This project was an education process for me. I thought I had an idea about the current situation regarding deaths in custody, but I had no idea that it had gotten so much worse recently. Also being involved in this project has opened my eyes to the United Declaration of Human Rights that state simple rights for every human, yet so many people do not have these rights.


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