• After three deaths in custody in a week, the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services is calling for action. (AAP)Source: AAP
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services calls for urgent action following three deaths in custody in the space of a week, while an inquest into the death of a Queensland man will examine police use of a controversial neck hold.
Keira Jenkins

12 Mar 2021 - 6:56 PM  UPDATED 12 Mar 2021 - 6:57 PM

Police in Townsville used a controversial neck hold, known as a lateral vascular neck restraint on a man who died in custody in 2018. 

The use of the neck hold by officers will be examined during a coronial inquest into the man's death, which is expected to begin in April.

The hold is banned in a number of jurisdictions around the world, including other Australian states and territories.

The practice came under scrutiny in the US last year, following the death of George Floyd, prompting several cities including Minneapolis, San Diego and Phoenix to ban the hold, and similar neck holds. 

'We need to do something now'

While in Australia, three more First Nations people have died in custody in the space of a week, prompting calls from the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services (NATSILS) for government to take action. 

NATSILS co-chair Priscilla Atkins told NITV News these deaths show that there needs to be urgent systemic change.

"This is a rolling effect," she said.

"We've had someone pass away - an unnecessary death - and we've got the families who have to deal with it for the rest of their lives and it's still continuing.

"We need to do something and we need to do something now."

Ms Atkins said she wants to see governments, at both a state and federal level, implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 30 years after they were first handed down.

"Until that happens it's just another report that sits on a shelf and there's just no action taken," she said.

"There needs to be an agreement in place where there's very clear targets, very clear strategies.

"You can't just have someone pass away in custody and no one held accountable for that."

In Victoria, an Aboriginal man died at Ravenhall Correctional Centre on Sunday.

While in NSW a woman aged in her 50s was found dead in her cell at Silverwater Women's Prison last Friday and a 35-year-old man died at Long Bay Hospital last Tuesday.

Death in custody: Aboriginal man's death third in one week
A Victorian man has become the third Indigenous person to die in custody in Australia during the past week.