Vigils will be held around Australia on 2 November following a deadly assault on Noongar-Yamatji teenager Cassius Turvey in Perth’s eastern suburbs on 13 October.
15-year-old Cassius Turvey died from head injuries on 23 October, ten days after allegedly being beaten with a metal pole by a man who had jumped out of a black Ford Ranger ute. Turvey was walking home from school with his friends in Middle Swan at the time of the alleged assault.
Turvey’s family told WA Today that he and his friends was falsely accused by the alleged assailant of smashing a car window the previous day. Additionally, Turvey’s friends allege that they were racially abused by the assailant and the ute driver.
On 25 October, Western Australian police charged Jack Steven James Brearley with Turvey’s murder. Three days later, police added charges of aggravated assault occasioning bodily harm and stealing, alleging Brearley also hit a 13-year-old friend of Turvey with a metal pole, and stole the boy’s crutches and cap.
However, police commissioner Col Blanch has angered Noongar community leaders by downplaying racism as a potential factor in the alleged assaults. In an open letter, published on 28 October by WA Today, they wrote,
“Cassius was not ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. He was in his school uniform with his friends in broad daylight.
They set upon him with weapons.
We want our children to stand up to racism. It’s very real in this community. We must respond to this as a Hate crime. That’s what it was.
The Premier and Police Commissioner are telling us to be quiet. We know attacks on our children are real. They are minimizing this horrific killing of young Cassius. This is wrong and dangerous especially as our people are not selected for juries.
We as a Noongar Nation are outraged by this mindless, inhumane, cowardly racist act against an innocent child. We call on Government to meet us now.”
Cassius Turvey’s grieving mother, Mechelle Turvey, told WA Today. “I’m heartbroken for my son; 15 years of age; for no reason, I have lost him ... I’m just appalled at some of the violence going on in our communities.”
A GoFundMe page established Cassius' family to pay for funeral and legal costs, as well as their campaign for justice, had raised more than $473,000 by 29 October. The family has expressed their deep appreciation for the expressions of solidarity from across the community.
A healthcare worker at the Perth Children’s Hospital who treated Cassius told Red Flag that his injuries and subsequent death have left hospital staff “grieving and in despair”. “The fact that the injuries were racially motivated makes me so angry. There is no place for racism in our society, none whatsoever. We must fight and continue to fight for Aboriginal health, especially for children,” said the healthcare worker, who wished to remain anonymous.
Liam Butler, a student at Swan View Senior High School, where Cassius studied, also spoke of the effect his death has had on the local community. “His death has sent ripples throughout the school, Midland/Swan and the wider Indigenous community. Students are mourning but staying strong in the face of this blatant injustice,” he said. “Teaching staff are equally outraged, with some from the Indigenous program handing out flyers at the school gate for the community event and posters for the upcoming vigil."
A National Day of Action demanding #justiceforcassius has been called for Wednesday 2 November. Event details:
Perth: Forrest Place, 12:30pm
Bunbury: Graham Bricknell Music Shell, 6pm
Albany: Town Hall, 6:30pm
Onslow: Front Beach BBQ, First Avenue, 5:30pm
Sydney: Town Hall, 6pm
Mr Druitt, Cnr Carlisle Ave & Luxford Rd, 6:30pm
Newcastle: Civic Park, 6pm
Wollongong: MacCabe Park, 6pm
Eden: RSL, 6pm
Canberra: Aboriginal Tent Embassy, 6pm
Melbourne: Aboriginal Advancement League, 6pm
Geelong: Wathaurong Aboriginal Corp, 6pm
Portland: Skate Park Shelter, 6pm
Brisbane: King George Square, 6pm
Adelaide: Victoria Square, 6pm
Darwin: Rapid Creek Bridge, 6pm
Alice Springs: Courthouse, 6pm