Please note: this story contains reference to someone who has died.
An Aboriginal man has died in custody at Ravenhall Correctional Centre in Melbourne on Sunday.
It is the third Aboriginal death in custody in the nation in one week. The March 7 death in Victoria followed two New South Wales deaths in custody on March 2 and March 5.
In NSW, a 44-year-old First Nations woman passed away in custody at Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre on March 5 and a First Nations man passed away whilst being treated at Long Bay Prison Hospital on March 2.
A statement from Corrections Victoria confirmed the death and stated that all deaths in custody are reported to the Coroner, who determines the cause of death.
“As the prisoner was an Aboriginal man, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus was advised on the day and we continue to work closely with them and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria,” the statement said.
Corrections Victoria said the victim’s family has been notified with their condolences and that a Smoking Ceremony is being organised.
“We recognise that all deaths in custody have impacts on family members, friends, corrections staff and the Aboriginal community, and we’re working to ensure they are provided with the support they need,” Corrections Victoria said.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) expressed their sadness at the event.
“My thoughts are with the family and community of the Aboriginal man who died in Ravenhall Correctional Centre on the weekend. This is a trauma that will have a lasting Impact,” said VALS CEO Nerita Waight.
“This death highlights the urgent need for sweeping reforms to the justice system. Our people are grossly overrepresented in the criminal legal system and in prisons.
“We have the solutions ready for Government. We just need them to listen and act.”
Waight says the organisation will wait for the Victorian Attorney-General and the Justice Minister to respond to calls for change.
The Ravenhall Correctional Centre death in custody will be the first to be handled under the Coroners Court Practice Direction 6 – Indigenous Deaths in Custody, which is designed to empower Aboriginal self-determination during investigations.
It requires initial hearings to occur within 28 days of a death in custody.
The three deaths in custody come a month shy of the 30th anniversary of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. There have been 455 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the report was tabled in 1991.
Many have taken to Twitter to share their frustration regarding the lack of implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
“[Third] Indigenous death in custody in recent weeks in Australia. Can remember being a young journo covering the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Australia still has so much to address,” wrote Joe O’Brien, an ABC News Mornings presenter.
3rd Indigneous death in custody in recent weeks In Australia.
Can remember being a young journo covering the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Australia still has so much to address.https://t.co/cVngqKoyRz
— Joe O’Brien (@JoeABCNews) March 11, 2021
“A third death in custody this week, an Aboriginal man has died in Victoria’s Ravenhall. The despair is paralysing. When will we recognise this is a nation-wide shame? We need more than only Aboriginal people to be angry, & fight for change,” wrote Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, Meena Singh.
A third death in custody this week, an Aboriginal man has died in Victoria’s Ravenhall. The despair is paralysing. When will we recognise this is a nation-wide shame? We need more than only Aboriginal people to be angry, & fight for change.
— Meena Singh (@MeenaHRLC) March 10, 2021
By Rachael Knowles