WA Greens Call for Public Inquiry into Deaths in Custody

Friday, 29 August

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has joined calls for a public inquiry into the death in custody of 22-year old Yamatji woman Julieka Dhu.

Ms Dhu was arrested on August 2 for unpaid fines and transferred to the South Hedland watch-house where despite vomiting, worsening pain and two hospital visits she remained incarcerated for more than two days until she was taken to Hedland Health Campus for a third time and pronounced dead on August 4.

Mr Chapple said the government should be doing everything in their power to figure out why this tragedy happened, and why similar tragedies continue to happen across our state.

“My deepest condolences go out to the family of Julieka Dhu, and the greater Yamatji community, for this heartbreaking loss,” he said.

“The account given by Ms Dhu’s partner in the days leading up to her death is simply horrifying; the police officers and medical staff involved have a lot to answer for.

“Whatever happened to duty of care? Primarily both of these services exist in the interest of public safety so clearly there is a very serious flaw in the system.”

Mr Chapple said a public inquiry was only the first step in resolving a long-standing, and deepening, mistrust between Aboriginal communities and state services.

“Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again,” he said.

“We need to take another serious look at those recommendations that have come out of other incidents such as this, especially the death of John Pat 30 years ago in Roebourne at the hands of five officers and more recently the tragic death of Mr Ward in the back of a prison van.

“More importantly, we actually need to implement a significant number of these recommendations and get some change happening in the way we treat Aboriginal people in this state.

“Incarcerating Aboriginal people, and indeed anyone, for such minor offences as an unpaid fine solves absolutely nothing, and generally costs more than the fine itself is worth; it should be a last resort option.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.




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