• Makayla and Taleah Reynolds, sisters of Nathan Reynolds, during a Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney on Monday. (AAP)Source: AAP
The sisters of Anaiwan and Dunghutti man Nathan Reynolds, who died in a NSW prison in 2018, tell a NSW parliamentary inquiry they want an independent body established to investigate deaths in custody.
Keira Jenkins

7 Dec 2020 - 4:25 PM  UPDATED 7 Dec 2020 - 4:25 PM

The family of Nathan Reynolds, who died of a severe asthma attack at the John Moroney Correctional Centre in western Sydney in 2018, say they have not received adequate support since his death.

Speaking at a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Deaths in Custody, Taleah and Makayla Reynolds - Nathan's sisters - detailed their experience during the investigation and coronial inquest processes.

Taleah was listed as Nathan's next of kin, but after his death, police first contacted their terminally ill grandfather, looking for their mother.

When police arrived at Nathan's mother's house, an officer asked if she knew Nathan and told her, "We think he has passed away."

The two sisters said they were given more information from a fellow inmate at the prison who called them later that day to tell the family what had happened than they learned from authorities in the six months following Nathan's death.

Taleah said she has still had not been formally notified by authorities of her brother's death and that she felt she needed to take on the role of representing her family during the ongoing coronial inquest, which has taken a toll on each member of the family.

"I’ve put my feelings aside," she said.

"I haven’t been able to grieve my brother or anything because if I do I feel like it will break me and I won’t be able to give my full into the inquest and I feel like I have to try to be clear minded in the inquest so that I know what’s going on and find the faults and try to get them fixed."

Taleah said even two years after her brother's death, "inmates' health concerns are still not taken seriously".

Makayla told the inquiry of the example of another brother - Shannon - who was hospitalised for pneumonia after asking for medical help for two weeks.

“Earlier this year our brother was incarcerated in a NSW prison, he did ring me quite regularly,on a daily basis, just to check in, see how the family was going ” she said.

“He was ringing up over a two week period with health complaints, saying he was also suffering with breathing issues and he was coughing up blood.

“He said that he had been asking for help from the guards and trying to request to see a nurse.”

'Set up for failure'

LegalAid contacted Makayla after she sought help for her brother and told her he had been taken to hospital.

“He had pneumonia for two weeks without getting adequate medical attention," she said.

Taleah said she feels as though Nathan was set up by the system to fail from the beginning.

“There was no consideration that my brother had a family he had to support and they just expected him to complete all the programs they put forward, including community service on the weekend," she said.

“They took no consideration that he worked full time or that he had a chronic health condition. 

“I recall a doctor wanting Nathan to go to hospital due to his asthma, but Nathan refused because he’d already been told that he can’t keep producing medical certificates to excuse him from his community service.

“Our brother said it would be easier to go to prison, but I’m certain that if he knew the outcome and what happened, he would have done anything he could have to stay out of jail.

“I bet that there are a lot of other people out there in the same boat as my brother  - set up for failure.” 

Makayla and Taleah said they beleived authorities had been passing the blame throughout the investigation of their brother's death and the coronial inquest.

They told the inquiry they want to see an independent body investigate deaths in custody, improvements to the parole system, and more support for families going through the coronial inquest process. 

The sisters also spoke at a rally outside NSW Parliament House on Monday, saying they would continue to fight for justice for their brother.

"We've been let down by the system and nothing will change the fact of what happened to my brother but what we can prevent is other families dealing with what we've had to deal with," Taleah said.

Taleah and Makayla were joined at the rally by the family of  Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr, who died in Long Bay Jail in 2016. His mother, Leetona Dungay, said she had spent the past four years grieving for her son.

"It's time for change and we want change," she told the crowd.

"We want the deaths to stop. My son was looking forward to getting out of jail and starting a new life but he died in the end screaming and begging for his breath."

The inquest into Nathan Reynold's death is set to continue on Friday.

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