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The Dhadjowa Foundation

Supporting the fight to stop black deaths in custody

Supporting the fight to stop black deaths in custody

Almost 30 years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, there have been at least 439 Black deaths in custody and not a single...





Impact AreaSupporting Indigenous Self-Determination

Year First Supported 2020

Almost 30 years on from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, there have been at least 439 Black deaths in custody and not a single criminal conviction for those responsible. Families who experience the injustice of Black deaths in custody must deal with a whole range of procedural, media and campaigning issues, as well as legal decisions, at a time when they are still grieving and in shock. This creates great financial strain at an already difficult time. Families have to wait an average of three years for the coronial process, and that is just the beginning of their fight for justice. Often a family’s sole source of non-government support when going through this process comes from setting up an online crowdfunding campaign. Those not comfortable making a public plea for support face going it alone. In order to achieve institutional change, community-led infrastructure needs to be established so families can be supported to fulfil their potential as powerful advocates.

Families whose loved ones have died in custody have been leading the way for change to end this injustice since colonisation. Even without formal support systems, families have fundraised and secured pro bono legal, advocacy and campaigning support. Most significantly, the advocacy of these families is now leading to real change: Aunty Tanya Day’s family’s advocacy has recently resulted in a commitment from the Victorian Government to abolish the offence of public drunkenness. The Dhadjowa Foundation is now being established to leverage the current public support for this work and provide a coordinated approach to assisting families.

Reimagining an Australia with justice for our First Peoples

Join us in supporting the Dhadjowa Foundation through the Impact Fund’s Reimagining Australia program. If you have a fund or foundation with us, please contact us to make a grant request. Alternatively, anyone can make a direct donation.


The Dhadjowa Foundation will deliver grassroots support for families through three key activities, each of which will be family-led and founded in self-determination.

Peer support: The Foundation will offer mentoring and mental health support from other families and community members who have experienced the same injustice, as well as other culturally safe support services.

Financial assistance: With the support of the ‘Pay the Rent’ campaign, the Foundation will provide financial assistance for time off work and travel for proceedings, as well as childcare and meals during this time.

Campaigning capacity building: The Foundation will offer families support in campaigning, advocacy, strategy, media training and event coordination. Resources will be developed, as well as a docuseries about families’ lived experiences of Black deaths in custody.


Family-led advocacy has so much potential to create systemic change. Supporting this work in a strategic, coordinated and culturally appropriate way is how we can end Black deaths in custody once and for all.


Although First Nations peoples have been campaigning for change since colonisation, the global Black Lives Matter movement has brought this issue to the forefront of the public consciousness in 2020. With the number of Black deaths in custody continuing to rise (at least five between June and September 2020), this is a national emergency. We must harness this momentum and act now.

The Dhadjowa Foundation is expected to be established by mid-2021.


The Dhadjowa Foundation seeks to amplify the campaigning of families and raise awareness of Black deaths in custody as its key outcomes. In addition, Dhadjowa will measure its impact against the following objectives:
• Abolition of the offence of public drunkenness in Victoria and Melbourne by 2022
• The establishment of an independent body for the investigation of policy misconduct by 2022
• Zero unjust fatal police shootings by 2022
• Support provided by Dhadjowa for at least 10 families by 2022
• Full implementation of the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations by 2025
• Zero unjust Black deaths in custody by 2025.
These outcomes and an accompanying theory of change are being further developed by the families involved.

Profile of The Dhadjowa Foundation

The Dhadjowa Foundation

The Dhadjowa Foundation is being established to support families who have lost loved ones to Black deaths in custody. Apryl Watson – daughter of Yorta Yorta woman Aunty Tanya Day who was arrested for public drunkenness and died in police custody in 2017 – is one of the Foundation’s founding Directors, alongside others whose family members have also died in custody: Samara Fernandez, cousin of Kumanjayi Walker; and Keicha Day, niece of Uncle Harrison Day. The Foundation will finalise its establishment in late 2020. In the interim, this project is being auspiced by the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services.

Support Supporting the fight to stop black deaths in custody

Got a question about this project or ready to contribute? Contact our Philanthropy & Impact Team.


As a broker of change, we invite social change initiatives to apply for funding. Eligible proposals are shared with our giving community via our Granting Opportunities directory.