Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist Allan Clarke has released a new podcast with the ABC examining the 1993 death in custody of Aboriginal teenager Daniel Yock.
Yock, an 18-year-old traditional dancer, had been enjoying a couple of drinks with mates in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park when a police paddy wagon started to circle them.
The boys decided to leave the park and yelled at the officers when they continued to shadow them. Then, two more police cars arrived. The teens scattered.
Yock, the slowest out of his friends, slammed into a burly officer. He was arrested for disorderly conduct, handcuffed, and placed in the paddy wagon. Just over an hour later, Yock was pronounced dead.
Daniel Yock / ABC.
His death tore through the Murri community in Brisbane, sparking one of the largest protests Queensland had ever seen. But, 27 years after his death, Yock’s family and friends are still looking for justice.
His story, and that of his family and friends’, are the focus of Clarke’s six-part podcast, Thin Black Line.
Say their name. In 1993, Daniel Yock, 18, was arrested and died in custody shortly after. His death is unfinished business. It's taken a couple of years to put this together. Please listen, his family and friends deserve to be heard. #NAIDOC2020 #BLM https://t.co/r7CJmv7nqr— Allan Clarke (@AllanJClarke) November 9, 2020
As part of the podcast, Clarke examined the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) inquiry into Yock’s arrest and its findings. The CJC has since become part of Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission.
“I wanted to figure out whether or not the Murri community’s doubt about the system were founded and whether racism played a role in Daniel being arrested in the first place,” Clarke, a Muruwari man, told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
The CJC inquiry into Yock’s death and arrest cleared police of any wrongdoing and ruled out charges of misconduct. Questions about over-policing, including whether or not Yock was targeted because he was Aboriginal, went unanswered.
“The community felt like it was a case of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts, they just tried to appease [Yock’s family],” Clarke said.
Clarke, who has worked on and off on the podcast for two years, said he had no idea just how emotionally draining it was going to be.
“This happened in 1993 and I’m sitting with [Yock’s family] almost 30 years later and they are just so broken,” he said.
The saddest part for him was imagining just how different their lives might have been if Yock had never been arrested.
Joseph Blair was Yock’s best mate, and had been arrested with him that day.
“When they were in the back of the paddy wagon, Joseph essentially watched Daniel die right in front of him. He said he tried to get help and that help never came,” Clarke said.
Blair was the only eyewitness who saw everything from start to finish, and was deeply affected by Yock’s death. If he saw a police officer in public, he would start to shake and sweat.
Blair sadly passed away after Clarke interviewed him.
“It’s just such a tragedy, a lot of these people have gone to their graves, like Joseph, without ever feeling like he got a semblance of justice for his mate.”
Joseph Blair holds a newspaper article about Daniel / ABC.
After African American man George Floyd died in police custody in May, protests erupted around the country. They echoed all over the world, including Australia, with thousands upon thousands of people taking to the streets in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think there’s a new energy around discussions about social justice in Australia,” Clarke said. “George Floyd’s death really galvanised a lot of people who would never normally take to the streets, or never normally look into the idea that police might be prejudiced against Aboriginal people.
“Naturally, people want to start looking at Australia’s history and to do that, as the Black community has been saying for some time now, we need to invest in truth-telling – the good, the bad, and the ugly – about our history, because you can’t really move forward, without looking back.”
History, and thereby memory, is an important part of Thin Black Line, especially for Yock’s family. There is a deep sense of sadness and fear that there will be no justice, that people will tell them to just move on because “this happened a long time ago.”
But keeping Yock’s memory alive is an, albeit small, form of justice for his family. Yock’s brother, Lionel Fogarty, has travelled the world telling people about what happened to his baby brother.
“There is power in sitting down and letting someone tell their story,” Clarke said.
“It’s important people understand the deep trauma that happens after a death in custody, because that pain never goes away.”
Thin Black Line is available on the ABC, or Apple and Google Podcasts.
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