Last Wednesday night, a vigil was held in King George Square and around the country in support of murdered Noongar Yamatji teenager Cassius Turvey . Cassius was allegedly beaten with a metal bar on his way home school on 13 October, dying from his injuries ten days later. Jack Stephen James Brearley, 21, has been charged with his murder.

Thousands attended the Brisbane vigil, including some politicians from local, state, and federal governments, but according to Aboriginal man Wayne “Coco” Wharton, the absence of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk demonstrates a lack of compassion and solidarity with Aboriginal people. The Premier’s reason for not attending was that “no invitation was received” by her office, and that Cassius Turvey’s death was “a matter for the Western Australian police.”

Wayne “Coco” Wharton
Wayne “Coco” Wharton, (image by Rose Lane)

At a press conference held in Musgrave Park on Friday morning, Wharton told media that none of the people who turned up to the vigils all over the country had received invitations, yet they came in their thousands.

“We had busloads of school kids come with their teachers. They didn’t get an invite,” he said.

“When there’s a social forum like this going on, this is where you display your compassion and affinity with the group that is affected. If thousands of people can come out around this country to address the issue of racism, which it was, and try to do something about it, why wasn’t the premier of Western Australia there at the vigils in Western Australia? Why weren’t the other members of parliament there. Why weren’t the other levels of government here in Brisbane?”


Mr Wharton stated that the increasing rates of juvenile detention and suicide[i] in the Aboriginal community are a reflection of Palaszczuk’s leadership. He said her response to problems within the Aboriginal community was to build more detention centres and keep the age of imprisonment under fourteen.

According to a report by Building Queensland published in 2019, $320 million has been allocated for a new 32-bed youth detention facility at Wacol.

“It’s on her watch over the last year and a half that there’s been an increase in Aboriginal youth suicides. There’s not a month goes past that we’re not burying someone as a direct result of suicide. This is on her watch. She doesn’t need to get an invite to come to a community meeting and talk about these things. She has a responsibility for these things as the premier to alleviate those social problems and turn up, just out of common decency,”  Mr Wharton said.

Mr Wharton added that state premiers need to show that they represent everybody.


[i] Deaths by suicide amongst Indigenous Australians (AIHW)

Cover image, Jan Bowman