Two more Indigenous people have died in custody, authorities announced on Tuesday, which means a total of seven First Nations people have died in custody since the start of March.
One of the people was an Aboriginal man who died in Victoria’s Port Phillip Prison on Monday evening. His death is believed to have been related to a medical incident, and a smoking ceremony has now been arranged.
The other person who died was a 37-year-old man who was found unresponsive in his cell at the Cessnock Correctional Centre in NSW on Tuesday morning. He was pronounced dead shortly after.
The tragic news comes just two weeks after the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Sadly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have continued to die in custody due to alleged police brutality or from an lack of urgent medical attention.
“Our grief is constant. It is never ending,” Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said on Twitter.
“We are heartbroken. We are outraged. We have no words left to describe our endless grief, and our ongoing trauma.
“The answers are clear. They’ve been clear for thirty years. This is a national crisis, and until every single recommendation from the Royal Commission is implemented, this will not end.”
— Senator Lidia Thorpe (@SenatorThorpe) April 27, 2021
Speaking about the man who died in NSW, state Greens MP David Shoebridge told The Sydney Morning Herald that there was a need to make the coronial process culturally safe so that the families of these people are not further traumatised.
“There is a deepening breakdown in the relationship between First Nations communities and prison and police authorities in NSW and this death will only broaden that divide,” he said.
More than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the final report of the royal commission was handed down in 1991, including five other men and women across NSW, Victoria and WA since March, 2021.
The report contained 339 recommendations to stop this from continuing, but clearly not enough has changed.