Sunday, January 9, 2011

A stain on our country: Another Aboriginal death in custody

So another Aboriginal Western Australian has died in custody here in Western Australia.

On Saturday a 51 year old Aboriginal man died in a cell at the Kalgoorlie Watch House. Apparently the man was in custody because he had breached a Move on Order. A spokesperson from The Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee has raised serious questions about the death:
"Was he medically assessed in terms of his physical health and mental health? Was he identified as a prisoner at risk, a detained person at risk? Was he under observation, how often was that observation? It raises all of these questions and we want answers to that sooner rather than later"
And once again we have the terrible injustice where a death in police custody is to be investigated by Police Internal Affairs. As Marc Newhouse from the Aboriginal Death in Custody Watch Committee put it:
"We've got grave concerns about the police investigation of this case and believe that the Corruption and Crime Commission should step in and conduct the investigation".
In a recent op ed piece in the West Australian social justice activist Gerry Georgatos highlighted that  Australia has one of the worst records of Aboriginal deaths in custody and the rate is increasing, not declining. In the last 18 months an Aboriginal person dies in custody in this country every month. Twenty years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody the situation today is worse than it was in 1990. Whilst the commission made 339 recommendations most have not been carried out.


Breenus said...

Shame! Shame! Shame! What can we do?
What would change attitudes and minds integrity and compassion? All I can do is ask.

Colin Penter said...

Cheers Mike, Thanks for your interest and support. Very good questions there. The case of the Kalgoorlie man is even worse than first thought. I am writing a follow up piece based on more recent information and will post it in coming days. Like Mr Ward this man died because he was Aboriginal. In this state of prosperity and excitement Aboriginal men charged with minor offences face a death sentence. And the majority of West Australian's could not give a shit. There are plenty of good people who do care and do what they can to bring about change. it is not enough I know but it is important. best wishes