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Recommendations for the Coroner in the case of David Dungay

First Peoples incarceration Aboriginal legal status and laws Sydney

Justice Action submits this report concerning the preventable death of David Dungay at Sydney’s Long Bay Prison Hospital in 2015. They submit that this death was as the result of failed duty of care by a number of staff at the prison, including breaches to established procedural protocols. At the very least, they say that he was killed by members of the Immediate Action Team (IAT) staff, whose series of actions, tragically and irreversibly suffocated him. Dungay sustained grievous bodily harm that was inflicted with unlawful and reckless indifference to his cries of distress. This indifference was clearly implied through the staffs’ deliberate and neglectful failure to respond to Dungay’s pleas for his life. This report has been developed in collaboration with Mrs Leetona Rose Dungay, David Dungay’s mother, who is a co-signatory to this submission.

Key points:

  • The situation which led to Mr Dungay’s death is one where non-medically trained prison guards made decisions justified by their incorrect assumptions about Mr Dungay’s medical condition, diabetes.
  • Justice Action urges that the actions that led to the killing of David Dungay, including those committed by individual officers, as listed on pages 29-31 of this submission, be referred to the DPP for criminal investigation.
  • Justice Action also recommends that families of deceased prisoners are informed of their right to seek Legal Aid for civil claims against corrections officers for possible breach of duty of care
  • Recommend that it is made mandatory for Justice Health nurses, other Aboriginal inmates or an Aboriginal staff member to be called in during times of crisis to ensure the prisoner’s welfare and to liaise with Corrections and Justice Health officers to achieve safe outcomes
  • The submission recommends that, in accordance with a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, an Aboriginal Inmate Committee (AIC) is to be established and remain active at every correctional centre, unless an exemption is granted by the Assistant Commissioner, Custodial Corrections (ACCC). The AIC is a representative body of Aboriginal inmates and an integral part of correctional centre management. An Aboriginal Inmate Delegate (AID) will be appointed as the secretary of the AIC. The AIC is a Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) initiative that affirms its commitment to support Aboriginal inmates to desist from reoffending, and acknowledges their family contact and cultural needs. The AIC does not address individual inmates’ personal issues. Aboriginal inmates in need of assistance can seek the help of the AID

This submission seeks to bring the Coroner’s attention to key themes for the prevention of cases similar to that of David Dungay, including preventative aspects and accountability mechanisms. His death was caused by traumatic injuries sustained and by lack of proper care whilst in detention in Sydney’s Long Bay Prison Hospital in 2015. In 1991 the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody revealed a complex and devastating picture of the effects of dispossession, colonisation and institutional racism on Aboriginal peoples. This Justice Action report highlights how relevant recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and past Coronial inquiries have not yet been adequately implemented. This report provides recommendations and options for creating a safer environment for prisoners with medical conditions and for Indigenous prisoners.

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