Wednesday 2 November 2022
The Aboriginal Legal Service has expressed disappointment in the NSW Government’s response to a parliamentary inquiry into the Coroner’s Court.
The Select Committee on the coronial jurisdiction in NSW issued 35 recommendations in May. On Tuesday, the Government gave its response, supporting only 15 of those recommendations and noting the rest.
“The parliamentary inquiry put forward a courageous vision of what the Coroner’s Court could become – a safer space for grieving Aboriginal families and a legal institution with the power to prevent future deaths in custody,” said Nadine Miles, Principal Legal Officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (ALS).
“It’s extremely disappointing that the NSW Government is failing to embrace that vision after the record number of deaths in custody in this state last year. To note a recommendation is essentially to put it on the backburner, but we have no time to lose when it comes to reforming the systems and environments that put Aboriginal lives at risk,” Ms Miles said.
The ALS is particularly disappointed by the NSW Government’s failure to support the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 12: That the NSW Government propose amendments to the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) to require coroners to examine whether systemic issues played a role leading to any death;
- Recommendation 13: That the NSW Government propose amendments to the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) to improve the accountability of responses to recommendations;
- Recommendation 16: That the NSW Government establish and fund a specialist preventive death review unit in the Coroners Court;
- Recommendation 26: That the NSW Government appoint significantly more qualified First Nations people to the judiciary, including the appointment of First Nations persons as coroners and introduction of a First Nations Commissioner.
The ALS is currently providing legal representation for families in 29 inquests into deaths in custody and police operations, plus providing support and advice to several other families who have experienced tragic deaths of loved ones.
In 2021 alone, 16 Aboriginal people died in custody and police operations in NSW – double the previous annual record set in 1998.
As the Bar Association of NSW has noted, the Government’s response does not commit any additional funding to the coronial system, despite considerable backlogs in coronial hearings and a significant rise in Aboriginal deaths in custody and police operations.
“Aboriginal families and communities deserve for their loved ones to be safe when dealing with police and prisons. When those public institutions fail them, they deserve accountability. This is the bare minimum. It’s not too much to ask for,” Ms Miles said.
Media contact: Alyssa Robinson - [email protected] - 0427 346 017
The ALS’ previous media release in response to the parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations can be found here: https://www.alsnswact.org.au/coroners-court-can-save-lives