On the 1st September 2018, we lost our much-loved brother Nathan Reynolds. He died in custody, after having an asthma attack - just one week before he was due to be released.
On that day, our lives changed forever. Nathan made a lasting impression on everyone he met. He was our brother, but he was also a son, father, step-father, nephew and grandson.
Nathan was the joker of our family - he had a really great sense of humor and loved his footy, golf and fishing. He also really loved his work as a tradie – it was a grounding place for him and provided an income to support his family.
Nathan valued family and spending time with them. It wasn’t unusual for Nathan to spend time with our grandparents, helping them around the house or simply putting a bet on with them. It wasn’t unusual for Nathan to spend time with the younger ones in our family. He would take them fishing, bowling, camping and he would even have them over for the school holidays. Nathan was a typical boys’ boy however he was a big softie at heart.
Our lives are forever changed by his death.
It’s soul-crushing knowing that at just 36-years-of-age Nathan died on the cold floor of a prison, separated from his family and loved ones. Nathan had a chronic asthma condition.
He was serving a 4-month fixed term. Corrective Services knew of Nathan’s health condition. He was expected to be released on 7 September 2018.
Since the horrible morning when we were informed of Nathan’s death, our family has been forced to wait a further two years to hear why our brother died of an asthma attack when he was meant to be under the care of the State. And for the past week and a half we have had to sit through agonising testimony in court, to learn what happened in the final moments of his death. No family should ever have to go through this pain.
We have heard during this process from Nathan’s peers and friends, and we know that they did all they could within their power to help him - providing reassurance and comfort in his final moments. Our family send love and healing to them for their courage and strength. We will be forever thankful to them.
Throughout this process, we have also heard that despite Nathan’s chronic asthma condition being known to Justice Health, he never received an asthma assessment and there was no plan in place to help manage his condition. And we’ve heard deeply traumatic evidence about the day he died – including that prison guards and a nurse walked to our brother, despite knowing that he was unresponsive and having trouble breathing.
Over the last week and a half, I recognise that several people were called to assist in this inquest, however, our family would like to specifically acknowledge Jeremy, Aaron and Brendan. Those three showed tremendous courage, consideration and strength in giving their evidence, which is appreciated by our family as it helped to provide a better understanding of what happened in Nathan’s final hours. We are forever grateful to all the inmates that provided friendship and support to Nathan, during his time inside, on the night of his passing, and we want to acknowledge the strength it would have taken to attend his funeral. We also would like to express our gratitude for the inmates who passed on their condolences via a card not long after his death, their condolences at that time were appreciated and it helped confirm what we already knew that Nathan was a likeable man who presence will be missed.
I need to make a few acknowledgments on behalf of myself and my family:
• I want to thank Detective Monique Cini for her support for the family from the beginning and I would like to recgonise all her hard work in getting all the brief of evidence together which allowed me to be prepared for the inquest.
• I want to thank our non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters who recognise the system failures relating specifically to Aboriginal people. They are out there raising awareness on these shortcomings and are doing all they can to create change and educate others. Their drive and passion is seen and felt by us all.
• I would like to acknowledge the families of Tanya Day and David Dungay. Privately and publicly they have shown us tremendous support and empathy. As mentioned to a number of Dungay family members, seeing their passion and determination puts the fire in my belly to fight for change.
• I would like to thank the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) and specifically Sarah, Craig, and Josh. Your dedication, support, patience and empathy throughout the last 2 years have been amazing. There are no words that can adequately describe how grateful our family is to you three.
• I want to acknowledge that there are a number of family members including our father, our grandfather, our aunties, uncles, cousins, and friends that wanted to attend this inquest however they have expressed that it is far too traumatic for them to hear the details of Nathans final moments. I also thank family members that have attended the inquest and have been part of the process.
Our brother should still be here today. Today we stand here to be Nathan’s voice and to ensure that there is accountability for his death. It is critical that there is urgent systemic change - there must be justice for Nathan, and we must ensure that this never happens again.