They eventually won the right to exhume Eddie's body, and suffered terribly in the process, in order to prove the true cause of death, and they proved it; his sternum had been crushed by a blow while he was alive. And they reaffirmed how common their story was. ''They're killing Aboriginal people ... just killing us,'' Leila told me. Today, Aborigines are incarcerated at five times the rate of blacks in apartheid South Africa, and their death and suffering in custody is widespread.
In 2000, then NSW police minister Paul Whelan met Arthur and Leila in his office in Sydney and ordered a special investigation.
He promised them this ''would not be the end of the road.'' There was no serious inquiry and the minister retired to his stud farm. He has returned none of my calls.
Leila could not read, yet this remarkable woman memorised almost every document and judgment. She died in 2004, broken-hearted. Incredibly, Arthur reached the age of 70 when many Aboriginal men are dead much earlier.
In a typical case this year, CCTV footage in Alice Springs police station showed a policewoman cleaning blood off the floor while a stricken Aboriginal man was left to die.
Australia, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard on September 26, deserves a seat at the top table of the United Nations because it ''embraces the high ideals'' of the UN. No country since apartheid South Africa has been more condemned by the UN for its racism than Australia.
When I last saw Arthur, we walked down to the Namoi riverbank and he told me how the police in Wee Waa were still frightened to go into the cell where Eddie had died and had pleaded with him to ''smoke out'' Eddie's spirit. ''No bloody way!'' Arthur told them. Peace to all their spirits; justice to all their people.
This article first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald
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