• The ACT government is being sued over a racist 'hangman' sketch allegedly drawn by Alexander Maconochie correctional staff. (AAP)Source: AAP
The former inmate claims prison staff knew he had suffered mental health problems and depicted him as a hangman figure.
Sarah Collard

21 Sep 2021 - 2:55 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2021 - 2:55 PM

CW: This article discusses suicide.

A Wiradjuri man has sued the ACT government over an alleged breach of human rights, caused by a 'humiliating a degrading' sketch he claims was drawn by prison guards at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The sketch, which depicted a hangman, was drawn on a whiteboard in the prison in May 2018. The man alleges that the image is purported to be him with the figure being identified by the initials TJ. 

The image was also photographed and passed around by correctional staff and detainees at the prison, according to court documents seen by NITV News.

He claims prison staff knew he had suffered mental health problems and had previously attempted suicide by hanging. 

Court documents lodged with the ACT Supreme Court allege the prison failed in its duty of care and compensation damages are being sought. 

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Community Health services' CEO Julie Tongs said the "horrific and racist" drawing also references the First Fleet

"It's disgusting. Especially understanding our history around colonisation and the violence that went with that ," Ms Tongs said. 

She said hangman's nooses have historical ties to lynching and white supremacy which would have added to the distress of a vulnerable person.

"I don't think it is widely known but there are absolutely links to those organisations and they need to stamp it out," she said.

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"It's derogatory and racist and for a man that suffers already from mental health — that escalated his mental illness."

Ms Tongs is calling for a public inquiry into 'systemic human rights concerns' at the prison which has been at the centre of a number of complaints — including forcibly strip searching a sexual assault survivor.

In the documents, the ACT government conceded it breached a duty of care but denies it is liable for any damages or costs relating to the alleged incident.   

A spokesperson for the ACT corrections minister Mick Gentleman declined to comment as the matter is now before the courts.

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