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Fifth Indigenous death in custody in five weeks

Rachael Knowles -

Please note: This story contains reference to someone who has died.

An Aboriginal man has died in custody in Western Australia, the fifth Indigenous death in custody in the nation in just over a month.

The 45-year-old Aboriginal man was an inmate at Perth's Casuarina Prison. On Friday he was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital before passing on Saturday in intensive care whilst recovering from a medical procedure.

The WA Department of Justice released a statement addressing the death on Sunday.

"The 45-year-old Indigenous man died yesterday evening at Fiona Stanley Hospital. His next of kin have been notified," the statement said.

"The prisoner had been admitted to the hospital on Friday, 2 April. He underwent a medical procedure yesterday and had been placed in intensive care.

"In accordance with all deaths in custody, WA Police will prepare a report for a Coronial inquiry."

The death is the fifth Aboriginal death in custody in five weeks. It follows two New South Wales deaths revealed in a State Budget Estimates hearing, a death in Ravenhall prison in Victoria and a death in Broken Hill, NSW during a police pursuit.

Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe took to Twitter to address the WA death in custody.

"This is the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country's criminal legal system since the start of March," wrote the Senator.

"The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!

"I'll be on the streets on April 10 for the Stop Black Deaths in Custody protest â€" see you there."

ABC journalist and RN Drive host Patricia Karvelas also took to Twitter.

"FIVE Indigenous deaths in custody in 4 weeks. Why is there no response? There needs to be," Karvelas wrote.

"This is the system we have built and it is failing First Nations People."

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody there have been approximately 500 Indigenous deaths in custody.

Labor Senator Pat Dodson addressed the rates of Aboriginal deaths in custody during Senate Estimates. In a press conference with fellow Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy afterwards, Senator Dodson warned the Government of slipping towards another death in custody.

"We know that since the Royal Commission there's almost 500 people who've died in custody, not all from mistreatment by any means. But we just don't know, we don't understand. We know some from health, we know some from police chases, we know that some are from other sorts of causes," said the Senator.

"But we've got to the chronic stage now where, instead of learning from the Royal Commission and its recommendations 30 years ago, we're standing on the brink potentially of another Royal Commission to inquire into the same sorts of things, the underlying issues that give rise to custodies and the reasons for this."

Speaking to Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker during Senate Estimates, Senator Dodson labelled the rate of deaths in custody as an "absolute scandal".

Senator Stoker noted in response that 91 per cent of the Royal Commission recommendations had been implemented.

A National Indigenous Australian Agency (NIAA) spokesperson also reinforced Senator Stoker's comments.

"In regards to the Royal Commission recommendations, the Australian Government has implemented 91% of the recommendations for which it had responsibility," said the spokesperson.

"The recommendation to eliminate and/or reduce equipment that could be used for self-harm, including the screening of hanging points in police and prison cells, was directed to the police and corrective services authorities."

By Rachael Knowles

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