The Western Australian Coroner conducting the inquest into Ms Dhu’s death in custody reserved the decision to publicly release harrowing footage of Ms Dhu’s death. The Coroner will deliver the decision at a date in the future.
Carol and Della Roe, grandmother and mother of Ms Dhu, who are represented by the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, said that they want the world to see the footage.
“Our child died a cruel and painful death. The world should see how she was treated. For the last two years, we have been suffering alone – everyone should understand our grief and make sure this never happens again,” said Ms Carol and Della Roe.
Dennis Eggington, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, said that the family has made it clear that their wish is to have the footage released.
“The Aboriginal Legal Service is here to support the family. I hope the Coroner gives the utmost consideration to the family’s wish, which is to have this footage released”, said Mr Eggington.
Ms Dhu, a 22 year old Yamatji Aboriginal woman, died in 2014 from septicaemia and pneumonia three days after she was locked up in a South Hedland police station for failing to pay her fines.
Western Australia has the highest Aboriginal imprisonment rate in the country and Aboriginal women in particular are locked up for fine default in alarmingly high numbers.
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, which is providing legal support to Carol Roe, said that Aboriginal peoples’ over-imprisonment is a human rights crisis requiring a whole of government strategy.
“The family want to make sure that what happened to Ms Dhu never happens again. WA desperately needs a fair and a flexible fines system, which differentiates between those who will not and those who cannot pay their fines. Victoria and NSW have such a system and WA should follow suit,” said Ms Barson.
“Release of the footage is profoundly important for the family’s sense of justice. Transparency is central to accountability. There is no doubt that this footage is confronting and disturbing – but Australia cannot ignore how this young Aboriginal woman was treated. It shouldn’t just be the family and the lawyers who see this footage. Australia should know how Ms Dhu was treated.”
The family has requested that their privacy be respected. For all media inquiries:
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, 0417 773 037
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519