Award-winning journalist Karla Grant unearths shocking truths in Grave Injustice – her new investigative special episode of Living Black.
Over the span of a year, Karla has followed a brave Gumbangerri family in their five-year struggle to repatriate the remains of their infant son. What they experienced was a series of prejudiced events and systems that continuously failed this Indigenous family.
Karla’s investigation traces back to almost five decades ago, sharing the story of a deteriorating Baby Michael who was only days old when he passed away in hospital. His parents, Rhonda and Cedric, were not notified and never got a chance to say goodbye.
Michael was laid to rest in Sydney. Upon attempting to repatriate Michael’s remains, the family discovered that the exact whereabouts of Michael’s final resting place were unknown. Additionally, they discovered that someone was buried on top of him, which was seen as an insult to their cultural and kinship law.
Karla and her team discovered that if cemeteries are to disturb any grave and put someone in a multiple plot, they are required to contact any known surviving relative to receive consent. Baby Michael’s family confirmed that this did not happen in his case, despite their details being available. They discovered that trying to retrieve Baby Michael to rest on country would be a battle against an array of systematic injustices.
Karla Grant said,
“We achieved what we set out to do, which was to find Baby Michael’s remains and then help the family to return him home to rest on the country of his ancestors in Armidale. This story is significant because it is one of the first times that the remains of an Aboriginal child have been exhumed and returned home for a traditional burial.
The family set out to change the laws in New South Wales and ultimately Australia by having traditional Aboriginal burial laws recognised and ensure no one is ever buried on top of an Aboriginal person without permission – which is what happened in the case of Baby Michael.”
Grave Injustice is the first major investigation led by Karla Grant in a series for Living Black.