• Aunty Tanya Day. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Coroner Caitlin English has agreed to examine whether or not systemic racism played apart in the death in custody of Aunty Tanya Day.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

27 Jun 2019 - 5:47 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2019 - 5:47 PM

In a landmark decision, systemic racism will be included in the scope of the inquiry into the death in custody of Yorta Yorta woman Aunty Tanya Day.

In December 2017, Aunty Tanya boarded a train from Echuca to Melbourne to visit family, but never made it after being arrested mid-journey for the offence of public drunkenness.

Aunty Tanya had been drinking and had fallen asleep on the train to be awoken a short time later by a ticket inspector. When Aunty Tanya failed to produce a train ticket, the Castlemaine Police were called. 

Despite being coherent at the time of their arrival, Aunty Tanya was taken into custody. Sometime afterwards she allegedly hit her head in a police holding cell and later died in hospital.

The family allege that systemic racism played a part in Aunty Tanya's death and it is the first time in Australian history that the examination of systemic racism will be included in a Coronial inquest.

"I'm really, really happy. We're extremely pleased with the outcome and Mum would be extremely proud of us and happy. Everything that we do is for her." Daughter Apryl Watson told NITV News.

"We just hope this is going to have a ripple effect through the community and that other cases that came before Mum that the racism is also looked at within those because there's obviously going to be more deaths in custody."

"It's the system that's failing our people so now that the Coroner has accepted that racism can be looked at, we hope that's the same for other people."

Coroner Caitlin English has previously stated that she will be recommending the abolition of the offence of public drunkenness, and lawyer and Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Ruth Barson said that it is an essential move for the state government.

"Over the past three decades, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and numerous expert reports, including the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, have recommended that the offence of public drunkenness be abolished and replaced with a public-health response." Ms Barson said.

“If Premier Andrews does not get rid of the offence of public drunkenness and confront the racism that leads to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being targeted and locked up – then deaths in custody will continue."

"If somebody is too drunk, they need help to get home or for an ambulance to be called – they should not be behind bars."

The inquest into the death of Aunty Tanya Day will commence on August 26, 2019.