Skin colur a bar to renting

Like many people she knows, Kelly Briggs asked a white friend to rent the house she lives in after six months of applying as an Aboriginal woman and getting nowhere.

“I’m too dark,” she said of the failed attempts to rent a home in Moreewith her two teenage children.

The 34-year-old reformed drug addict, who has a diploma in business governance, previously had a steady job two years ago and has been trying to find a new one ever since.

“I’m just at the point where I’m applying for receptionist positions,” she said.

Ms Briggs is not surprised by the findings of the landmark Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report released on Wednesday.

The report found hospital admissions for intentional self-harm increased 48 per cent between 2004-05 and 2012-13.

She is among the statistics. Seven years ago she was admitted to hospital for self-harm when she returned from Brisbane to her home town of Moree and tried to find employment.

“It’s just this really deep, deep feeling of you don’t belong and no matter what you’re doing, nothing’s going to change. You feel like a non-person,” Ms Briggs said of the experience.

“I just couldn’t see any way out.”

She has since been diagnosed with a mental health condition and, while she had a stable upbringing in which both parents worked, said she had experienced racism all her life.

“My first run-in with racism was preschool,” Ms Briggs said. “Racism in Moree is so entrenched that people don’t see it.

“People were calling me ‘blackie’, ‘Abo’ of course. A little girl told me I was dirty.”

She puts the increasing rates of self-harm among Aboriginal people to entrenched disadvantage and a lack of jobs and money.

The people who work with the growing indigenous prison population are not shocked by the mammoth 57 per cent increase in the adult imprisonment rate between 2000 and 2013.

Changes to bail laws and parole and probation, as well as mandatory sentencing and a lack of legal resources, were increasingly bringing people already living in poverty and at a social and economic disadvantage into contact with the law, Shane Duffy, the chairman of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, said.

“Tough on crime” policies were also lengthening court lists in remote areas and making it harder for alleged offenders to comply with bail conditions.

“Court lists are blowing out and it does tend to lend itself to a sausage factory,” Mr Duffy said.

He said others with mental health problems were waiting in prison on remand for up to 18 months while a report about their condition was completed.

Debbie Kilroy, the chief executive of prisoner advocacy group Sisters Inside, said a growing number of indigenous women were being imprisoned for breaching domestic violence orders, particularly in northern Australia.

Some spoke English only as a second language and could not read or write, making it difficult to defend themselves or explain a history of violence towards them, she said.

“It’s clear that Aboriginal women are being targeted with laws and policies,” she said. “[And] they don’t have the access to education to deal with the legal profession.”

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Working together

SINGLETON Cancer Council brought out the big guns to celebrate a loyal sponsor Bloomfield Group’s latest donation last Friday morning.

CEOs from the Bloomfield Group and the Cancer Council met at the John Street shopfront with volunteers and community members to cap off a successful year and partnership.

HANDSHAKE: Bloomfield Group CEO John Richards and Cancer Council CEO Jim LeStrange.

Cancer Council regional manager Shayne Cornell said a combined effort from corporate donations and Bloomfield fundraisers such as their golf day, started in 2002, has seen a total of about $350,000 given to their charity.

The company also provided a further $2000 for the upkeep of the Singleton John Street office.

“This donation offsets the cost of the shopfront and allows us to provide more services to thecommunity,” Mr Cornell said.

Cancer Council CEO Jim LeStrange said they were the only charity that provided across all aspects of the cancer fight.

Bloomfield Group boss John Richards said that he, like many of his employees has family touched by cancer, and that it wassomething the whole community grapples with to defeat.

After the ceremony Mr LeStrange was given a tour of Rix’s Creek Mine.

SINGLETON Cancer Council volunteer Margie Mitchell was surprised last Friday when a plaque was unveiled at the Singleton shopfront.

The plaque was to represent the new official name of the back or quiet room, “The Margie Mitchell Room”, in the building where volunteers talk in private to people who come to the shop.

“Margie was one of our inaugural officevolunteers and is often the first to greetpeople who came in the office,” Upper Hunter manager Glen Parsons said.

“When people come in, often distraught, after being diagnosed she would take them tothe quiet room in the offices and discuss theirsituation and where to go next to get back on track,” Mr Parsons said.

VOLUNTEER WORK ACKNOWLEDGED: Jim LeStrange and Margie Mitchell with the new plaque for the quiet room.

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50 of this year’s quirkiest Christmas giftsPHOTOS

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Post-mortem results could hold key to Bec’s death

POLICE are still piecing together answers about what happened to Rebecca “Bec” Perkins.

The 25-year-old’s body was found at Gunnedah’s Overlander Motor Lodge on Tuesday

morning, sending shockwaves through the community.

The mystery gathered momentum as homicide squad detectives arrived in Gunnedah that night and police confirmed the death was being treated as suspicious.

Detectives from Gunnedah and Tamworth established a crime scene in the motel room and forensics officers from Dubbo and Inverell were among those who attended the scene following the discovery of the body.

The door of the room was still coated with fingerprint dusting powder yesterday as police stood guard.

Oxley crime manager Inspector Phil O’Reilly told the Namoi Valley Independent today the crime scene had been completed, but police from Tamworth and Gunnedah were continuing to investigate the matter.

No charges have been laid.

He said detectives were awaiting the results of a post-mortem to determine the exact cause of death.

Inspector O’Reilly said the death would continue to be treated as suspicious unless tests and reports showed otherwise.

“Our investigators will investigate based on those results,” he said.

He has said it could take a “little while” before results were available.

Under an operation named Strike Force Neweena, investigators spoke to a number of witnesses in Gunnedah yesterday.

A man who was interviewed on Tuesday was released without charge.

The 25-year-old mum is believed to have been a Newcastle resident who was based in Gunnedah during the week working in the mining industry.

Her death prompted tributes from friends and family saddened by the news.

Police continue to urge anyone who had recent contact with Rebecca to contact police.

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Helensburgh hit-and-run cyclist case delayed again

Talia Jade Van-Rysewyk after appearing in Wollongong Court in February.

The hearing into a Helensburgh hit-and-run accident that left a cyclist with fractured vertebrae and other broken bones has again been delayed, this time after witnesses failed to attend court.

Talia Jade Van-Rysewyk, her left arm held in a sling, sat quietly at the back of Kiama Local Court on Thursday while her matter was briefly mentioned.

Police prosecutor Mark Rollestone told the court police witnesses due to give evidence at the hearing were unavailable and he sought an adjournment.

On the last occasion, Van-Rysewyk failed to attend her July court date, instead faxing through a medical certificate attributing her absence to illness.

Defence solicitor Renata Matyear told the court at the time her client had been struck down by a vomiting bug, a diagnosis confirmed after Magistrate Mark Richardson ordered the doctor who issued the certificate give telephone evidence.

Mr Richardson granted the adjournment on Thursday, but said the matter must run on the next occasion.

Van-Rysewyk denies she failed to stop after hitting Brendan Braid as he cycled along the Old Princes Highway about 6.20am on January 5.

Mr Braid, a 58-year-old accountant from the Sutherland area, was flung from his bike and landed by the side of the road.

He suffered two fractured vertebrae, a broken femur, a cracked pelvis and fractured ankle.

A group of cyclists found Mr Braid lying by the road several minutes after the collision and phoned emergency services.

The magistrate adjourned the hearing to March.

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