Four Aboriginal deaths in custody in three weeks is “huge red flag that something is seriously wrong”

MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday 25 March, 8:00 am

 

A community has been left reeling and the Aboriginal Legal Service is demanding urgent accountability after the confirmation of a fourth recent death in custody.

Barkindji man Anzac Sullivan, 37, passed away during a police pursuit in Broken Hill on Thursday 18 March. This tragedy comes shortly after the deaths of three Aboriginal people in prisons: two in NSW and one in Victoria.

“Anzac was a loved brother, nephew, son and uncle. He was loved by many in his community and he will be missed,” said Donna Sullivan, Anzac’s sister.

She is joined in mourning by siblings Elaine, Adrian, Mervyn, Jacqueline and Leslie, as well as extended family. Anzac’s parents, Cheryl and Brian, are both deceased.

“Any death in custody is an absolute tragedy, and our hearts go out to the Sullivan family and their community. We are devastated and furious that another precious life has been lost,” said Sarah Crellin, Principal Solicitor (Crime Practice) at the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.

“For four deaths to occur in the space of a little over a fortnight is a huge red flag that something is seriously wrong with police and corrections systems in Australia.

We are calling for Anzac’s death to be investigated urgently by an independent body, and for this investigation to be transparent and accountable to Anzac’s family and the Broken Hill Aboriginal community,” Ms Crellin said.

Almost 30 years have passed since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody concluded. Many of the 339 recommendations made in the Royal Commission’s final report have not been implemented, despite persistent calls to action from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations.

“500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the Royal Commission that was meant to put a stop to these deaths. As we approach the 30th anniversary, it’s unfathomable that more lives are being taken, with no sign of meaningful action from governments,” Ms Crellin said.

Fifteen Aboriginal families whose loved ones died in custody have requested to meet with the Prime Minister on 15 April, the 30th anniversary of the final report’s release. They have received 15,000 petition signatures from the Australian community, but no response from the Prime Minister.

“Without urgent action, Aboriginal people will continue to die before their time, away from their loved ones, and in traumatic circumstances. Before the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody on 15 April, the NSW Government and the Commonwealth Government must each deliver an action plan to prevent further deaths,” Ms Crellin said.

 

ENDS

 

Media contact: Alyssa Robinson – [email protected] / 0427 346 017

 

Anzac Sullivan’s family are not taking interviews at this time and have asked for privacy as they come to terms with their loss.

They have given permission for media to publish the below photo of Anzac:

Anzac Sullivan

Ways to Get Involved