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death in custody of mr. wallam

[PN: Here is the latest from ray jackson from the indigenous social justice association.
Ever since local police claimed that eddie murray hung himself in Wee Waa watchouse in 1981, there has been a pall of disbelief over police or goal officer accounts of hanging deaths of aboriginal persons in jail. here is another. get a copy of this book from your local library to see what i mean: “Eddie’s country : why did Eddie Murray die?” Like Eddie Murray’s dad, Arthur, said: “the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody achieved nothing.”
Ian Curr, Jan 2015.]

the following newspaper articles span the death in custody of mr. wallam, a 31 year old aboriginal man who, it is alleged, committed suicide in the casaurina gaol in western australia on 22 october, 2014 as national protests were taking place around australia over the tragic death of ms. dhu in a port hedland police station arising from criminal neglect by wa police and medical staff at the medical clinic in port hedland.

during the national protest marches, including in geraldton, port hedland and perth, news was related of the death of mr wallam by a wa dept of corrective services release read by commissioner james mcmahon. (see below)

article 1 non-relevant information removed.

Aboriginal man dies in Casuarina Prison as hundreds rally around WA to protest deaths in custody
By Graeme Powell
Thu 23 Oct 2014, 6:18pm

A 31-year-old Aboriginal man has died in a Perth prison, as hundreds rally around the state to protest Aboriginal deaths in custody.
It is the second death in custody in WA in three months.

There is something terribly wrong with our system, particularly in relation to prisons, but also in police custody.
Marc Newhouse, Deaths in (custody) Watch Committee, (wa).

The Department of Corrective Services released a statement confirming the death of the man in Casuarina prison.

“It is with deep regret that I confirm the death of a 31-year-old Aboriginal prisoner in custody,” Commissioner James McMahon said.
“The man was found unresponsive in his cell at Casuarina Prison during a routine check by prison officers at around 9.30pm last night.
“The prison officers immediately carried out CPR. Ambulance officers called to the prison were also unable to revive him.
“The Department has a duty of care to protect prisoners and offenders from harm or injury.
“The loss of a life in custody or in the community is tragic. I offer my sincere condolences to the man’s family and friends in their grief.”
Mr McMahon said a coronial inquest would be held to determine the circumstances and cause of death.

Deaths in Watch Committee wants answers
Head of the Deaths in Watch Committee Marc Newhouse said people want answers.
“It’s devastating and this tells us and the Government knows this — that there is something terribly wrong with our system, particularly in relation to prisons, but also in police custody,” Mr Newhouse said.
“Our condolences go out to the family of the person who is deceased.”
Mr Newhouse said he was told the prisoner had taken his own life.

“The Royal Commission [into deaths in custody two decades ago] made recommendations around removal of all ligature points in prisons and police lock ups. Clearly that has not occurred in this case,” he said.
“This is appalling and needs to be addressed immediately.
“We don’t have any detail, but we are very, very concerned and we are going to get to the bottom of this. The Government needs to act.
“Today at Parliament we’ll be presenting immediate demands about what needs to change so that these sorts of deaths in custody end.”

Mr Newhouse said one of the main problems with Aboriginal deaths in custody related to visitation rights from family of the inmate.
“The Aboriginal visitor scheme is in complete disarray and it has been raised in parliamentary inquiries by us and others,” he said.
“The Aboriginal visitors scheme has the potential to prevent these sorts of deaths and that is the very reason it was set up, but it’s in complete disarray.
“I think the problem is that is comes under the Department of Corrective Services and that needs to change. It needs to be under an independent body.”

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in article 2, also with non-relevant information removed, further light was thrown on to the alleged suicide of mr. wallam when it was learnt that mr wallam was but three months away from his release date. this clearly shows that mr wallam must have been under severe stress of some kind within the gaol environment. either caused by external events or if by internal events then enquiries must seriously be made as to whether these stresses were inmate or officer related.

to my mind and from what i have been told mr wallam was not suicidal and with only 3 months time to go would have needed to be very traumatised during the time prior to his death by hanging. were the custodial and medical staff, those with a legislated duty of care, aware of his situation in the days or weeks leading up to the event? if not, why not? if they did then what remedial action was taken by them that may have prevented this tragedy from occurring?

we also learn now that the casaurina gaol was badly overcrowded and there were strong allegations made of inmate mistreatment by the gaol officers though these were not exampled at the time. there have been endless reports worldwide of the dangerous effects of overcrowded gaols and these reports are supported by gaol officers and staff alike who fear for their own safety as well as that of the inmates.

one does not get very much from being in a gaol. you may, or may not, have to share a cell with another inmate and this becomes problematical when a mattress is thrown on the floor for yet another inmate you are expected to share with. access to resources such as welfare, education, work are quite limited and then comes the not unnatural push that your particular wants and needs is way more important than that of other inmates. medical access is ‘double-doored’ by officers needed to allow access to the clinic and then by clinic staff as to whether or not they wish to deal with you on that day. day to day life in gaol is but one continuum of petty frustrations built up into seemingly insurmountable mountains.

as marc newhouse so correctly says if you do not have a good workable gaol visitor system in place then that only adds to the every day litany of problems. then of course there are the gaol politics to contend with! both officer and inmate. as aboriginal people it is well known, despite the push of politicians to make us one humongous group, we come from many nations and from many families and like all people there arises differences from a host of reasons that causes friction between groups. this is, of course, a universal phenomenon that the gaol system tries to get around by keeping opposing forces in different gaols but with overcrowding this is not always possible.

gaol slights may be slight indeed but in the human hothouse of a gaol they multiply greatly. suffice to say that gaol is one hell of a place to survive in.

such a process of being held in custody, however, does not exonerate gaol officers and staff from their need to show duty of care to the inmates. the wa coroner must look and investigate closely the events surrounding the last days and hours of mr. wallams life.

reference to another aboriginal death in wa by premier barnett remains obscure but is probably related to the death of ms. dhu for unpaid fines. perhaps he may finally begin to properly implement some of the royal commission recommendations into the wa custodial system. that will most definitely reduce deaths in custody in his state.

article 2

The latest death occurred on October 22, when an Indigenous man referred to only as Mr Wallam hung himself in Perth’s Casuarina Prison.

Mr Wallam cannot be further identified for cultural reasons. According to a report by The Australian on Sunday, Mr Wallam was just three months away from being released.

News of the man’s death hit local media as thousands of Australians were taking part in marches to protest Indigenous deaths in custody on October 23.

“It is ironic that as hundreds were marching around this country to raise our concerns of the outrageous number of death in custody of Aborigines an unnamed 31 year old Aboriginal man is reported to have suicided in Casuarina Jail,” Jackson said.

Jackson argued prison authorities urgently need to take action to curb Indigenous deaths, and he isn’t alone. Peter Boyle from Australia’s Green Left Weekly newspaper told teleSUR, “There have been 340 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the end of the royal commission.”

“Most could have been prevented if the (commission’s) recommendations were all implemented,” he said.

Head of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee Marc Newhouse told The Australian newspaper there were allegations prisoners at Casuarina were mistreated, and that the prison was overcrowded.

“Two decades after the royal commissions, why are there still hanging points in jails?” Newhouse asked. During the protests the day after Mr Wallam’s death, Western Australian premier Colin Barnett told crowds in Perth he would make a “personal commitment” to reduce Indigenous prisoner deaths.

“I will do that, you then judge me on whether I succeed or not, but I give you that commitment today,” Barnett stated, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

However, Barnett’s comments weren’t in response to Mr Wallam’s death, but yet another Indigenous prisoner in the state.

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the third and final article, produced in full, raises matters of great concern and alarm as to the alleged savage treatment involving mr. wallam during those final days and hours spent in casaurina gaol.

when a death in custody event occurs anywhere in australia then under the relevant state and territory coroners acts several things automatically happen. the first is for the police to be called and they are made aware of the situation of a death whether in a gaol or in a police-controlled situation. the first police on the scene fill out what is known here in nsw as a p76 which carries the title ‘notification of a death to the coroner.’ that documentation sets out the identification of the deceased, if known, other personal details, if known, place and time of death, who found the deceased, names of police and others attending death scene, among items of fact for the immediate knowledge of the coroners office. rc 10. immediate reporting to the relevant family, rc 19, and to the relevant aboriginal legal service must also be done. rc 20.

then is performed the first interim autopsy and a quick report that gives, if it can be ascertained, the cause of death. blood and body samples are also taken for later toxicological analysis. the interim autopsy report also goes to the coroners office. the third important document is the full autopsy report that goes into quite some detail of the pathologists report on finding the cause of death and any related causes plus the full toxicological report on what was found in the blood and stomach remains of the deceased.

these three documents, the p76 and both autopsy reports, must be given to the family of the deceased or their nominated delegate or representative as a matter of right. rc24. during the time of the aboriginal deaths in custody watch committee this was done as a matter of course but from 1998 on this practice, along with others, have been disbanded. that must not however stop the right of request and amplification of any refusal. if allowed to then all custodial deaths will be covered up from public view.

the report below, #3, raises many alarm bells as to why the wallam family are being refused to have given to them the documentation as outlined above. the immediate question that such an action dictates is, ‘ why, what have they got to hide’?

the circumstances of the alleged bashing and bruising upon mr. wallam clearly shows, to me at least, that events have taken place against mr. wallam that may, and i stress may, have caused him to take his own life. from what we can extrapolate from the comments of the family there was quite visible bruising on the face of mr. wallam and a possible broken cheek bone.

it appears likely that mr. wallam was severely assaulted but whether by other inmates or staff is not known at this time. reports from inmates concur that mr. wallam was bashed but no further information has been given. ms. kylie coyne’s assessment is correct however when she believes the full autopsy report would most certainly throw extra light on to the other relevant circumstances into his death.

in other death in custody cases there have been a few where families have been denied receiving a copy of the final autopsy report due to the horrific circumstances of the death but as wa als chief, dennis eggington, has pointed out other arrangements can be made such as giving it to the als, or the ams, a medical friend, whatever. there are ways for the family to be informed of what had happened to their loved one.

official silence is, as described by marc newhouse, an ongoing ‘living hell’ of countless unanswered and unanswerable questions whereby the death is repeated day after day. it seems that a terrible crime has been committed against mr. wallam behind the walls of casaurina gaol and no amount of official cover-up should arise from those criminal events.

we strongly urge the wa premier, colin barnett, to order the release of all the documentation to the family or their nominated representative as soon as possible. especially as a part of his ‘personal commitment’ to reduce aboriginal deaths.

article 3

Family seeks answers over prison ‘bashing’
victoria laurie
The Australian
December 15, 2014 12:00AM

Aubrey Wallam’s family, including cousins Tia Wallam and Tamara Humes and his mother Annette Wallam, want access to his autopsy report. Picture: Colin Murty Source: News Corp Australia

Aubrey Wallam.

THE anguished family of an child-Aboriginal man found hanging in Perth’s Casuarina Prison in Octch-ober have been blocked from seeing his autopsy report, and are increasingly tormented by unsubstantiated claims from within the prison that he was badly beaten before he died.
Eight relatives of Aubrey Wallam say they clearly saw a dark, curved bruise on his forehead when they were allowed to sit with him in the mortuary soon after his death, and they say his cheek appeared broken. State Coroner Evelyn Vicker wrote eight days later to the family telling them Wallam’s cause of death was ligature compression of the neck, but his widow Kylie Coyne’s formal request last month for a copy of the post-mortem that would detail any other injuries has so far yielded nothing.

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee says such basic information ought to be conveyed to the family, especially since they had been contacted by a fellow prisoner who alleges Wallam was bashed on the morning he apparently took his own life.
“This must be cleared up — they are in hell wondering if he was bashed or not,” committee spokesman Marc Newhouse said.
“It does not need to be made public — they can tell the family privately.” The Australian has spoken to the prisoner, who claims to have seen Wallam on the ground being kicked in the head on the day he died. The Department of Corrective Services would not comment.
Wallam, who would have turned 32 this month, had three months left of his sentence when he was found dead at 9.30 in his cell on October 22, the night before rallies around Australia to protest deaths in custody.

He was the second person to die in custody in Western Ausch-tralia this year, after the death in August of the Aboriginal woman known for cultural reasons as Miss Dhu.

Members of Wallam’s family who inspected his body at the mortuary describe a bruise about 15cm to 20cm long on his head.
Tamara Humes, Wallam’s cousin, said of Wallam’s temple: “It was swollen and purple like a really bad bruise.” She said his cheekbone also looked broken.

Ms Coyne asked the coroner’s office for an autopsy report, believing she could have a document similar to the one released to Miss Dhu’s next of kin a fortnight after her death, but was distressed to be told it would not be available for several months. The WA Aboriginal Legal Service called on the Coroner’s Court to release Wallam’s post-mortem report to his family or at a bare minimum, a copy of it to ALSWA to explain it to the family. “This would allay the excruciating stress and anxiety felt by the family as they try and guess what happened to Mr Wallam, which caused his death,” said chief executive Dennis Eggington.

A special taskforce appointed by Premier Colin Barnett is reviewing Wallam’s death in custody as well as that of Miss Dhu.
Last week, Mr Newhouse said he and Perth elder Ben Taylor met the taskforce to make suggestions for reducing deaths in custody and the state’s Aboriginal incarceration rate, which is about 40 per cent.

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fkj

ray jackson
president
indigenous social justice association

prix des droits de l’homme de la republique francaise 2013
(french human rights medal 2013)

1303/200 pitt street, waterloo. 2017
isja01
61 2 9318 0947
0450 651 063

we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people

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