29 August 2014
The comments below, in relation to the recent death in custody of a 22 year old woman in South Hedland, have been made by Mr. Peter Collins, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA, Director of Legal Services.
“It is an unimaginable tragedy that yet another young Aboriginal life has been lost in police custody. The fact that this young woman had been incarcerated for not paying fines simply compounds that tragedy.
It is also deeply troubling that she appears to have been held in a police lock up for several days, rather than having been transferred to a jail immediately following her arrest.
Reporting of the circumstances of the deceased’s detention at the lock up and what transpired at the hospital raise serious concerns about the quality of custodial and medical care provided, which ALSWA will seek to rigorously examine when it represents the family of the deceased at the Coronial Inquest.
The death regrettably highlights this simple truth - all the public utterances by government and others about the appalling rate of Aboriginal incarceration in this State is simply posturing and doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless something meaningful and concrete is done to address it on the ground.
Locking Aboriginal people up for not paying their fines is not only inhumane, it is grossly inappropriate and if what occurred here is anything to go by, life threatening.
It shouldn’t happen in a modern civilised society, but it does in WA, all too frequently, if you are Aboriginal” said Peter Collins.