Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has called the justice system “deeply racist”, following the deaths of three Aboriginal people in custody over the past week.
Corrections Victoria, the government unit responsible for the state’s prisons, said the man died at the Ravenhall Correctional Centre on March 7.
“As the prisoner was an Aboriginal man, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus was advised on the day and we continue to work closely with them and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria,” Corrections Victoria said in a statement.
“The family of the man were notified with our condolences, and a smoking ceremony is being arranged.
“We recognise that all deaths in custody have impacts on family members, friends, corrections staff and the Aboriginal community, and we’re working to ensure they are provided with the support they need.”
In NSW, a man in his 30s and a woman in her 50s have died in the past week but their deaths were only revealed under questioning during a NSW parliamentary hearing two days ago.
“This is relentless and traumatising for our people,” Ms Thorpe said in a statement on Thursday.
“At this point you have to say, the system is deeply racist.”
The Victorian man’s death has been reported to the Coroner, who will formally determine the cause of death.
The chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Nerita Waight, says the trauma will have a lasting impact.
“This death highlights the urgent need for sweeping reforms to the justice system,” she said.
“Our people are grossly over-represented in the criminal legal system and in prisons.”
“We have the solutions ready for government. We just need them to listen and act.”
The legal service says in the 30 years since the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 455 Aboriginal people have died in custody.
The investigation into the latest Victorian death will be held under new rules for dealing with Aboriginal deaths in custody, requiring prompt investigations, and for Aboriginal voices to be heard during the inquest.
But VALS says it does not have the funding to participate in the new process.
“We again ask the Victorian government to properly fund our services so that we can make a real difference for our people,” Ms Waight said.
Earlier this week, the Victorian government announced a “truth-telling” commission to investigate the effects of colonisation on Victoria’s Indigenous community.
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