Thursday, 27 June 2019 09:14

Coroner rules inquest to consider racism

On Tuesday the Coroners Court of Victoria ruled that the scope of the inquest into the death of Tanya Day, an Aboriginal woman who was fatally injured in police custody, should include consideration of whether systemic racism contributed to the cause and circumstances of her death.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said it was important that the Court specifically consider whether those people who engaged with Ms Day on the day she suffered her fatal injury upheld her human rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

"Ms Day was entitled under the Charter to be treated equally and without discrimination during her life. Whether a denial of these rights was a cause or circumstance of her death is a matter that the Coroners Court should investigate."

"The right to life under the Charter also requires that there be an comprehensive, thorough and effective investigation into Ms Day’s death, which supports addressing broader systemic and prevention issues."  

Commissioner Hilton said the inquest may have significant implications for the application of the Charter to coronial inquests and the need for public authorities to address systems, structures and practices that result in racial discrimination against Aboriginal people.

"This inquest will hopefully continue to strengthen the use of the Charter by the Coroners Court and embed a greater understanding about how the Charter applies to the Coronial process," Commissioner Kristen Hilton said.

On 5 December 2017, Ms Day was removed from a V line train at Castlemaine Railway Station. Members of Victoria Police attended, and she was arrested for public drunkenness. Ms Day was placed in a cell at Castlemaine Police station and whilst in custody, suffered a head injury. Ambulance Victoria officers attended, and she was taken to Bendigo and then St Vincent’s Hospital. Ms Day died in hospital on 22 December 2017.

The Commission intervened in the inquest to help the Coroners Court understand how the Charter should be used in determining the scope of the inquest. The Commission submitted that several of Ms Day’s human rights, including the right to equality, the right to life and the right to culture needed to be considered. In particular, the Commission highlighted the obligation of public authorities to provide culturally safe and trauma-informed care.

The Commission encourages Aboriginal people and service providers who have questions about human rights or obligations to contact us.

People can also make a complaint of discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act. Call the Commission on 1300 292 153, chat with us online or submit an online complaint form.

Read the Commission’s submissions to the Court and the Coroner's Court ruling 

Media contact

Peter Davies
Mobile:
0447 526 642
Email: peter.davies@veohrc.vic.gov.au 

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