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5 Changemakers, 5 Days: Apryl Day

First Nations people are advised this article contains the name of a First Nations person who has died in custody.

Apryl Day is a Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba and Barapa Barapa woman and founder of The Dhadjowa Foundation – a grassroots organisation that provides strategic, coordinated and culturally safe support for First Nations families who have experienced a death in custody. She’s a community organiser, campaigner and staunch advocate for justice and police accountability.

Apryl is the daughter of Tanya Day – a proud Yorta Yorta woman who died in police custody in December 2017. Aunty Tanya was detained and held in a cell under public drunkenness laws, which have since been abolished in Victoria after years of advocacy by the Day family. Apryl is a changemaker in the truest sense of the word.

We yarned with Apryl in the lead up to National Reconciliation Week 2022 for our 5 Changemakers, 5 Days campaign. Questions and answers may have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about yourself and your mob.

I’m a proud Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba, Barapa Barapa woman. My family grew up in Echuca on Yorta Yorta Country alongside the Dhungala (Murray River) and have strong family connections to Cummeragunja and Moonahcullah. I’m a single mother to two beautiful little girls (Kirrawai and Willarrah) – one who has a rare neurological disability, Rett Syndrome, and who showed me the true meaning of love, patience and joy within the chaos and confusion of a new reality as a special needs family. I'm the founder and executive officer of The Dhadjowa Foundation, and a member of both VIC WAR and Pay the Rent.

What drives you to create change?

Aboriginal people continue to die in custody at alarming rates. We now have over 500 deaths in custody with zero convictions and no accountability. It's been an ongoing national crisis that's ignored by government, and continuing to do so has meant that our community is facing the same grief and trauma that prompted the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. I’m hoping that with the work I do within my own family and at Dhadjowa, I can make some imperative changes to keep our people alive and seek accountability for those who died in custody.

What does your ideal future look like?

That we have no more Black deaths in custody – that one day Dhadjowa no longer exists. It breaks my heart knowing how needed we are in community, and my hope and aim is that we are not needed anymore. For our mob to live a safe, peaceful and joyous life without the fear of losing ourselves or loved ones at the hands of the state. 

What does being brave look and feel like to you?

I think as Blackfullas we can all show bravery in many forms – but for myself, after enduring these past five years – it's the strength and resilience to still be able to share and carry myself with love and integrity. I actively campaign to address the systemic issues that killed my mother, not only for justice and accountability for her but for my mob. So no one else has to experience such heartache. 

Do you have a call to action for our community?

Follow Dhadjowa on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Donate here if you can.

Other things you can do:

  • Sign this petition for bail reform.
  • Sign this petition to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
  • Sign this petition calling on the prime minister to meet with families whose loved ones have died in custody.
  • Check out NATSILS and your state-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. Follow them on social media and share their posts. Amplify their voices, subscribe and donate. Show up!

Top image: Supplied by Apryl Day
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