Activists demand new Inquiry into the death of Veronnica (Paris) Baxter

From: Ray Jackson

this press release comes from the community action against homophobia (caah) who are a very activist group who became involved in the paris campaign some time ago. their participation has very much helped to push the call for justice for paris and her family. real solidarity is great when it is in action.

further solidarity also comes from nsw upper house greens representative, david shoebridge, who is referring veronica baxter’s case to a nsw parliamentary Inquiry (with the power to call witnesses). this is indeed great news and clearly shows the social poverty of the 2 main parties, labor and the coalition government.

david is also fully supportive of the call for a new investigation and coronial inquest for tj hickey. he also supports the call for a memorial to all nsw dic to be incorporated into the rebuilt block at redfern. he supports the call for the tj hickey to be bolted to the fence concrete wall that is being blocked by the doh and the redfern police.

please distribute this press release through your networks and attend the rally listed below if you can.


ray jackson
indigenous social justice association

Activists demand new Inquiry into the death of Veronnica (Paris) Baxter
Veronnica (Paris) Baxter was an Aboriginal transgender woman locked up in Silverwater prison on March 14th 2009. She was found to be hanging by a bed sheet that was tied to the top bunk in her cell, at 6am on March 16th, 2009.  A public campaign calling for an Inquiry into her suspicious death was waged for two years. A rapid half day inquiry was held on Monday 4th April, slated to have gone for two days.

The Inquest was all over by 3.30pm but Deputy Coroner, Magistrate MacMahon held a press conference at 6.30pm to invoke s75(5) of the Coroners Act, 2009. The Act slaps an individual $1100 or six months imprisonment if they publish anything about the case. A media outlet can be slapped with a $5500 fine. This suppressed any information being made public about the Inquiry, gagging any media publicity or comment on the case by activists or others. By 7pm all articles placed by the Associated Australian Press, Sydney Morning Herald, and Australian Broadcasting Corporation relevant to Veronnica (Paris) and her unnecessary death had been removed.

When activists contacted the Coroner’s court to ask them the reasons behind the gag motion, representatives stated the reasoning was to “protect the family”. However, Veronnica Baxter’s brother William Drury said “I had not been contacted by any person from the Coroners Office. I was rung twice by the Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) Solicitor who, among other matters, urged me to accept the continuation of the gag. I did not want this, as I want my sister’s case to become very public, so such a tragedy never happen again.”  Authority to act on behalf of her family has now moved from the ALS to the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), due to the fact that the ALS were not in favour of lifting the non-publication order, whilst ISJA were acceptable to take instructions from the family.

Ray Jackson, Indigenous Social Justice Association spokesperson, said “this inquiry was a sham. It did not resolve how she died. We saw a white-wash – on the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in custody. After the farce of this ‘inquiry’ we then saw censorship of the like I have never seen before, in my twenty years of black deaths in custody campaigning.”

The only witnesses called were the Police Investigative Officer, a Corrective Services Investigative Officer, and a gaol Programmes Manager, who had arranged for the Transgender Correctional Officer to talk to Veronnica (Paris). All witnesses were vague in several important areas of their areas of individual responsibility. The gaol Transgender Officer was not called by the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), yet she was the officer with hands-on responsibility for Veronnica (Paris) and her welfare.

The inquiry revealed Veronnica (Paris) made four emergency calls during the night of her death. No witness addressed if those emergency calls had been answered, or by whom. It revealed all psychological assessments made of Veronnica Baxter before her death, declared her “not-suicidal”. One counsellor declared her to be “smiling, happy and talking”.

There was no information in the inquiry as to if Veronnica Baxter was placed on her hormone treatment.  norrie mAy-welby, sexual rights activist, said “Deputy Coroner MacMohan declared Corrective Services followed the NSW transgender imprisonment policy to the letter. But we had no evidence to confirm she had been given her hormones. If trans people are not given their hormones, they can become suicidal.”

Adding insult to injury, Deputy Coroner MacMohan bought down a ruling that primarily used Veronnica (Paris) Baxter’s male name.

Ray Jackson said “We need another inquiry, and we won’t stop till we get one. The Coroner tried to hide this case. Why? If they have nothing to hide, why this gag motion? We don’t know what happened to Veronnica Baxter, because the Inquiry was a charade.”

norrie mAy-welby noted “The Coroner thinks no-one will care about the life of a transgender, Aboriginal woman. Well they are wrong. We call on all people’s and groups who want real justice for Veronnica (Paris) Baxter, and those who want an end to transgender and black deaths in custody to rally with Community Action Against Homophobia and ISJA on the April 15th 2011, outside the Glebe Coroner’s Court. This is the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.”

Rally outside Glebe Corner’s Court 44-46 Parramatta Rd, Friday 12 noon, 15thApril, 2011

New Inquiry for Veronnica Baxter! No more censorship! Real Justice for Veronnica Baxter! Stop Black Deaths in Custody!

Call Ray Jackson 0450 651 063 norrie mAy-welby 0432 885 422 Rachel Evans 9690 1977 for more information

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