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.”
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."