• Change the Record event in Canberra marked 25th anniversary of the Deaths in Custody Royal Commission report. Picture: James Tew © Change the Record Coalition (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service is ‘appalled’ that Corrections Victoria didn’t follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
NITV Staff Writer

14 Sep 2016 - 12:14 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2016 - 12:52 PM

When a 41-year old Indigenous man from New South Wales died on September 3 at Fulham Prison, Victorian Police quickly responded saying the death was “not being treated as suspicious.” The State Government was made aware of the death, but not the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.

A spokesperson from the Victorian Government said in a statement, "the death of any person, regardless of whether they're in prison or in the community, is sad... As the matter is being investigated by the coroner, as is standard practice, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Chief Executive Officer for the Victorian Legal Service Mr Wayne Muir says his organisation believes this “is an appalling state of affairs and needs to be rectified.

“The Victorian Legal Service calls on the Victorian government to revisit all of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and to report annually to the State parliament on the implementation of the RCIADIC recommendations,” Mr Wayne Muir says.

The Victorian Legal Service added that it looks forward to reviewing the outcomes from the Coroner’s investigation in the coming weeks to “advocate for the health, well-being and safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates across the state of Victoria.”

Comment: Every State and Territory must roll-out the Custody Notification Service
Several recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987 to 1991) screamed for the enabling of immediate support to detainees through highly skilled advocates. Today, this support exists through the Custody Notification Service (CNS), but only in NSW and the ACT. With nearly half the nation’s arrests comprising of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, it is unjustifiable that the rest of the nation has not implemented this service.

The incident in Victoria raises further concerns over how effectively state governments and correctional services are following the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody nationwide.

In New South Wales, Aboriginal woman Rebecca Maher died in a Maitland police cell in July. The New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service was notified 24 days after her death.

Victorian Legal Service deputy CEO Annette Vickery says the recent deaths have “heightened awareness about the sensitivities around this."

Questions raised over Rebecca Maher's death in custody
Rebecca Maher was the first Indigenous person to die in NSW police custody in 16 years and now, her family say a report that found she had no illegal drugs or alcohol in her system contradicts police claims.