By Anoushka Saunders
The vigil held at Sydney’s Town Hall on November 2 for Cassius Turvey was filled with people. I arrived to find a crowd including people of all different ages and backgrounds, many of whom wore clothing or pins showcasing the Indigenous Australian flag as a show of support. People continually filtered in and out throughout the vigil, with some leaving early and some arriving late, but there was a large group there from start to finish. Many attendees collected and lit candles beforehand, so they were visible during the vigil.
Cassius Turvey was assaulted and beaten on his way home from school on the 13th of October 2022 in what has been confirmed to be a racially motivated act of violence, and died in hospital from the resulting injuries a number of days later.
The speeches included some which were prepared and others which were impromptu, beginning with some words that Mechelle Turvey, Cassius’ mother, had asked the vigil organisers to pass on. She asked that there be no riots or violent acts committed in Cassius’ name, and that this trauma not be exploited for personal gain at any stage. She also shared how Cassius’ father had died a few months before he did, and their family were still grieving when Cassius passed. She emphasised how positive Cassius was, how he was a role model to many around him, and mentored many students who were similar in age to him. Though many speeches throughout the night were deeply powerful, Mechelle’s words set the tone right from the start, and her family’s thoughts and feelings were gut-wrenching to listen to.
Sister Narelle, one of Cassius’ cousins, also spoke. She critiqued how the biggest outpouring of support was seen on social media rather than in mainstream media on news broadcasts, and underlined that it shouldn’t take knowing someone who’s related to Cassius for people to feel grief at the situation.
Many attending the vigil, both in the crowd and as speakers, wore school uniforms. Shayana Donovan, an Indigenous speaker who attended, said she felt as though she needed to go home and collect her year 12 jersey from the previous year to remind herself that it could have been her. Ethan Lyons also spoke in school uniform, saying that racist discrimination could be seen “here in our schools”. He highlighted a need to stop normalising casual racism against Indigenous Australians through jokes and offhand remarks.
The vigil also included music and poetry, and celebrated Cassius’ life and impact as well as reflecting on the racist systems that allowed this injustice to occur.