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Authorities must act on Coroner's findings into David Dungay Jr's tragic death in custody | November 2019

22 November 2019


The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (‘ALS’) is calling on the NSW Government to urgently implement the Coroner’s recommendations into the death of Aboriginal man David Dungay Jnr, in Sydney’s Long Bay Prison Hospital - to stop further deaths in custody.

Mr Dungay, 26, who suffered schizophrenia, diabetes and asthma, died on December 29, 2015, after being forcibly moved to a single-observation cell, where he was pinned down by a group of prison officers after he had refused to stop eating a packet of biscuits.

Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee found today that ‘most likely...the cause of his death was cardiac arrhythmia’ and that ‘extreme stress and agitation as a result of the use of force and restraint were all contributory factors to David’s death’.

Commenting on today’s Coronial findings, ALS Chief Executive Officer Karly Warner said, “It is deeply concerning that no active measures of persuasion or negotiation were used in this instance, resulting in the same forceful past practice, instead of a proper consideration of alternatives which may have kept this young man from dying. In the minutes leading up to his death Mr Dungay repeatedly said ‘I can’t breathe’ but was ignored.

“The ALS extends our heart-felt condolences to David Dungay Jnr’s family, friends and the community – they have lost a son, brother, uncle and friend just weeks before he was due to be released” Ms Warner said.

“Too many Aboriginal people are being forced into the quicksand of the criminal justice system, with our communities vastly overrepresented in prisons across Australia. Systemic change is needed to end the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people.

“Mr Dungay was suffering serious mental health issues and he deserved to have access to the appropriate levels of care and treatment in a non-custodial mental health facility.

“The family are deeply concerned that no-one has been held accountable for his death. We hope that the Coroner’s recommendations, including the involvement of Aboriginal inmate delegates and welfare officers and better training and education on the clinical risks of restraints are adopted, go some way towards  ending the spiralling number of Aboriginal people who die in custody.”

ALS Media Contact: (02) 9213 4112 / [email protected] 


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