As the coronial inquest into Ms Dhu’s tragic death in police custody concludes, her family has called for a meeting with Premier Barnett to ensure he is taking action to address Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Carol Roe, grand-mother of Ms Dhu, said that the Premier made a direct promise to her and Ms Dhu’s mother, Della Roe, that he would address Aboriginal peoples’ over-imprisonment and related deaths in custody.
“It’s been over a year since Premier Barnett promised us he would do the right thing. The Premier should now show us the courtesy of meeting with us to explain what his Government is doing to make sure no other family has to endure such a tragedy,” said Ms Roe.
Ms Dhu, a Yamatji Aboriginal woman, was 22 years old when she was locked up in a South Headland police station for failing to pay off her fines. She died three days later.
“I want the world to know how badly my daughter was treated. She should have never been locked up in the first place. I still can’t believe something like this can happen in this day and age. The mistreatment and hurt of Aboriginal people must end,” said Ms Della Roe.
Over a period of four weeks, the Coroner has heard alarming evidence of how both police officers and hospital staff dismissed Ms Dhu as faking her pain and illness.
“People involved in my daughter’s death should be held properly accountable – instead we’ve heard how some police officers have been promoted. This is so hurtful to us,” said Ms Della Roe.
Ruth Barson, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that such an egregious example of system failure should be a wake-up call for Western Australia.
“The Coroner has heard shocking evidence of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Premier Barnett now has a choice – he should take immediate steps to address this grave injustice. He must stop locking people up for unpaid fines," said Ms Barson.
For media inquiries: Ruth Barson, HRLC Senior Lawyer, 0417 773 037