Monday, June 15, 2009

Nothing changes

Over twenty years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody lambasted the Australian government, police and prison authorities over the number of Aborigines dying in their care. While it ruled out deliberate, foul play - people weren't being murdered - it found a widespread culture of neglect towards Aboriginal prisoners. Basically, those in power didn't give a shit about them, and were quite content to see them die or hang themselves in jail.

Unfortunately, it seems that nothing has changed:

A coroner has found that an Aboriginal man was "cooked to death" after he spent four hours in the back of a security van in searing heat with no air conditioning as it drove across the goldfields of south-west Australia.

The 46-year-old Aboriginal elder suffered third degree burns after collapsing in the heat and falling to the floor of the van while it travelled 250 miles from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in 47C heat.


The West Australian coroner, Alistair Hope, found that Ward was effectively "cooked" to death and heavily criticised the state prisons department, the private security firm that operated the van and the two guards who escorted Ward.

The security staff could apparently see and hear all of this happening, but did nothing. It is hard to imagine them showing the same level of neglect to a white prisoner.

The case has now been referred to the Western Australia Department of Public Prosecutions. Hopefully they'll do a better job of it than Queensland did over the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee.

(Oh, and as a final note, the security company responsible, Global Solutions Ltd, formally known as Group 4, are likely to be a contender for running National's private prisons in New Zealand. I wonder how the Maori Party will feel about that...)