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Family calls for Aboriginal health workers in prison system "day and night" after death in custody

Giovanni Torre -

The mother-in-law of Wayne Ugle, the young Noongar father who died in custody on 6 November, has called for Aboriginal health workers to be based in the prison system "day and night".

Margaret Kelly told National Indigenous Times the family received formal confirmation that Mr Ugle had died in custody eight hours after he passed away, having heard earlier only through a relative in prison.

"We were notified after 7pm. They rang me and told me, the Midland Detectives, that they were coming to our place," she said.

"At 3.20pm I got the message. My nephew heard about it in prison first, he had heard about the death before 3 o'clock and rang my sister, who rang us to let us know.

"I found out as I was travelling, I turned around and came back so I could be with my daughter (Natasha Ugle) – and when I told her it was Wayne she nearly collapsed then and there.

"I had been ringing the police (since hearing), I said we could be grieving for somebody else, we didn't know officially it was Wayne. They called around 7pm and said they would come to my daughter's house. From 11.03am – around eight hours after he died. If it was not for my nephew we would not have known."

Mr Ugle's family said earlier this week that Mr Ugle had asked for heart medication before his death in custody, but his requests were ignored.

Ms Kelly told National Indigenous Times she had urged investigating officers to get Aboriginal health workers in to work in lock-ups.

"We spoke with the Coroner Detectives today and we put it to them they need to get Derbarl Yerrigan (Health Service) in the prison system, even for the overnight prisoners in the Watch Houses, they need to get Aboriginal workers in there night and day. That is what we put to the Coroner's detectives today," she said.

Ms Kelly said her nephew had been called to a prison office by a guard who alerted him that there had been a death in custody of someone close to him.

"He said 'we know you are close to this bloke' and told him it was Wayne Ugle. (My nephew) rang family and that's how we got the news."

Ms Kelly said the detectives had provide a pamphlet to her with a counseling service number, and that the Department of Child Protection had offered to assist her daughter Natasha, who, with Mr Ugle, had been caring for six foster children (four of whom are still minors) in addition to their three children.

National Indigenous Times has contacted the WA Department of Justice for comment.

The late Mr Wayne Ugle. Image: supplied by the Ugle family.

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