• Frank Coleman (right) with his deceased son Ricardo. The photo was Frank’s prized possession. (Supplied: Family of Frank Coleman)Source: Supplied: Family of Frank Coleman
The family of Ngemba man Frank 'Gud' Coleman is demanding urgent answers after he was found unresponsive in his cell last Thursday.
Jodan Perry

13 Jul 2021 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 14 Jul 2021 - 6:06 AM

The family of a Ngemba man is calling for an immediate autopsy and coronial inquiry following his death in custody in a Sydney jail last week.

Frank 'Gud' Coleman was found unresponsive in his cell at the Long Bay Correctional Complex on Thursday, July 8th.

His family said they were in shock hearing the news as he was a healthy 43-year-old.

“The Coroner has contacted us however time frames are still unknown for an autopsy. To date there has been no determination of cause of death and we are still left without answers,” his daughter Lakota Coleman said.

Adding to the families' devastation is that they say they were unable to see him for a year and a half due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"Coming from a cultural view, it’s not acceptable. He didn’t have any visitors for 18 months and that’s inhumane," said his ex-partner Skye Hipwell.

“Frank always said he was not a free man, he was living under a white man’s law, and it breaks my heart that he died not a free man. He died alone in a jail cell and no one knows anything about his last minutes."

"Life-saving recommendations remain on the shelf while people like Frank suffer lonely and preventable deaths."

Mr Coleman was born in the north-west New South Wales town of Brewarrina and raised in Sydney's Mount Druitt. He has been remembered as having an infectious smile and being a loving father.

"He would talk to anyone. He was extremely staunch and proud in his Aboriginality, his culture and community. He absolutely loved and adored his children," she said.

"One of his biggest wishes was to be reunited with his eldest son Ricardo, who was killed four years ago."

He leaves behind children Lakota, Samantha, Ricardo (dec), and Dominic, his sister Katrina, his father Robert and his ex-partner Skye.

In a statement, Corrective Services New South Wales said they are investigating the death alongside NSW Police.

Recommendations 'on the shelf'

The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT is supporting Mr Coleman's family throughout the process.

Chief Executive Officer Karly Warner said it was 'devastating' that another First Nations person has died behind bars.

“Each time an Aboriginal person dies in custody, the lives of their family members and entire communities are changed forever. The trauma is something they carry every day,” Ms Warner said.

“It’s devastating beyond measure to have this conversation with yet another Aboriginal family whose loved one has died alone behind bars."

There have been almost 500 First Nations people die in prisons and police incidents following the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its findings in April 1991.

"Federal and state governments refuse to conclude the Royal Commission’s unfinished business," Karly Warner said.

"Life-saving recommendations remain on the shelf while people like Frank suffer lonely and preventable deaths."


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