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WA prisons mental health emergency under the microscope at inquest into death of Aboriginal teenager 

Giovanni Torre -

First Nations readers are advised that this story contains images and names of people who have passed away.

A series of suicides in Western Australia's Serco-operated Acacia Prison will be highlighted by human rights lawyers and a bereaved family this week as the WA Coroner examines the death of nineteen-year-old Noongar and Wirlomin man, Stanley Inman Jnr.

On 11 July 2020 Mr Inman was found in a critical condition in a prison storeroom and he died in hospital two days later.

His sister has said she attempted to speak to an Aboriginal Liaison Officer about her concerns regarding her brother's mental health just days before his deaths.

In a statement, Mr Inman's familed said on Monday: "We as a family have stood alongside those other families also affected by this great epidemic and injustice against indigenous men, women, youth, and children of this country. We simply just don't understand how to others he has just become a statistic."

National Justice Project chief executive and Principal Solicitor, George Newhouse, has called on the WA Minister for Corrective Services, Bill Johnston, to take urgent action to address the "mental health emergency" unfolding in WA prisons.

"How many more suicides will it take before the WA government acts? We need Aboriginal Medical Services available in prisons to provide the culturally safe care that WA prisons are incapable of delivering," he said.

"Instead of delivering adequate support to incarcerated people, the Minister has delivered a human rights emergency in WA prisons."

The National Justice Project said it will be seeking answers about Mr Inman's mental health treatment and his access to cultural and peer support. They will also be asking whether there were appropriate and culturally safe mechanisms for Stanley's family to convey their concerns, and whether Acacia Prison's did enough to reduce access to ligature points.

Minister Johnston told National Indigenous Times: "All suicides are tragic and the government is taking all actions possible to prevent suicide and self harm across the State's prisons."

The WA Department of Justice has established Prison Support Services (PSS), which has a role in providing support and cultural expertise to people in custody identified to be at a higher risk of self-harm and/or suicide. The PSS is made up of Prison Support Officers, the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme and the Peer Support Program.

An 1800 telephone number can be called by Aboriginal prisoners or their family/friends where there are concerns about access to assistance and counselling, and the Department's Psychological Health Services comprises registered psychologists and social workers who are clinically experienced in mental health, as well as occupational therapists.

If this story has caused you distress, please contact Lifeline (13 11 14) or 13YARN (13 92 76) for support.

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