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Directions hearing commences into death in custody of Noongar man

Dechlan Brennan -

The following article contains the name of a person who has died

A directions hearing into the death of a 28-year-old Noongar man who died in the aftermath of a police pursuit and arrest began in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Jeffrey Winmar was hospitalised after the pursuit on November 9 and never recovered, passing away on November 11 from a suspected cardiac arrest.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) said multiple police units, including the canine unit attended his house for a planned arrest.

Victorian Police said paramedics were called after Mr Winmar suffered a "suffered a medical episode," in the aftermath of the arrest and was taken to hospital.

In a statement, the Victorian Police said a man was wanted in relation to an ongoing investigation.

"As officers attempted to arrest the 28-year-old, he ran from the scene and was located a short time later in a backyard…" they said.

During the hearing, the Age reported Mr Winmar was handcuffed as he lost consciousness, came to and then collapsed again before a cancelled ambulance was called a second time.

VALS said Mr Winmar's family are "concerned about the conduct and accountability of police during the arrest and his pursuit".

"They have received inconsistent information from police and are seeking answers as to his treatment during his pursuit, apprehension and arrest," VALS said.

VALS CEO and Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman, Nerita Waight, said VALS would support the family during the inquest into Mr Winmar's death.

"Jeffrey's family deserve answers and they deserve justice," Ms Waight said.

"Aboriginal people in Victoria are more likely to be arrested, incarcerated and to die in custody compared to non-Aboriginal people."

The Age reported counsel assisting the coroner, Lindsay Spence said body-worn camera footage from the dog handler showed Winmar saying "please don't let the dog bite me, please don't let him bite me" before kneeling on the ground, collapsing and losing consciousness.

Mr Winmar lost consciousness twice, the second time resulting in him being admitted to the intensive care unit at Box Hill hospital, where he passed away on November 11.

Mr Winmar's mother, Ursulla Winmar, said all her son wanted to do "was to come home and look after his son, to be a good father".

"Now the family chain is broken all of a sudden and I've been robbed of a son, he had so much left to give to us, and we still need him," she said.

"I want the police to account for what happened under their watch."

VALS said there has been at least 555 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaths in Custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

They stated 19 of those "unjust" deaths occurred in 2023, and Jeffrey "is one of the three Noongar people who have died in custody this past month".

Mr Winmar was remembered as a family man with an "infectious smile" who was the protector for his younger siblings.

His father, Jeffrey Anderson, described Mr Winmar as a "beacon of positivity" and someone who "carried his culture and his strong belief in Christianity with him everywhere he went".

He reiterated the view that the family had been left in the dark around the details of his son's death, receiving limited and at times, conflicting, information.

"There is a lot we don't know about the circumstances leading up to Jeffrey's passing," Mr Anderson said.

"We have been told conflicting information and we are waiting for answers about what happened.

"With the support of the Aboriginal community in Victoria, Western Australia and across the country, we will fight for justice for our Jeffrey."

The case will return to court in June for another directions hearing.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

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