‘Beyond heartbreaking’: 500 Indigenous custody deaths since 1991

Torture Hands In Prisonsource: The Guardian
published: 6 December 2021

Five hundred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in Australia in the 30 years since a royal commission handed down a report aimed at preventing Indigenous deaths in the justice system.

The national Aboriginal legal service released the grim toll on Monday, saying it is “beyond heartbreaking”.

The latest Australian Institute of criminology figures show there were 489 Indigenous deaths in custody since the end of the 1991 royal commission to June 30, this year.

Since then, there have been another 11 deaths, including four in the past five weeks, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (Natsils) says.

In November, 43-year-old Glen Francis was found unresponsive in a cell at Queensland’s Maryborough correctional centre, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man was found dead in Cessnock jail in New South Wales.

Gomeroi man Stanley Russell was shot dead by police at his aunt’s home in north-western Sydney, also in November. In late October, a 27-year-old Indigenous Queensland man died during what authorities described as a “violent struggle” with police.

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