Family vows to campaign for justice for Black teenager who suicided in detention

October 20, 2023
Vigil for the Black teenager on October 18. Photo: Nova Sobieralski

The family and friends of a Black teenager, who committed suicide in the notorious Unit 18 of Western Australia’s Banksia Hill Detention Centre, have told the government the place is a “baby killer’s room” and there are better ways of dealing with youth misdemeanours.

The teenager's family and friends held a candlelight vigil at Wellington Square Park on October 18.

Menang Woman Megan Krakouer said: “The department has been warned, the politicians had been warned, that something like this could potentially happen if they don’t close [Unit 18]. “There were better ways, there were better options, but it fell upon deaf ears.”

Aunty Rosalyn, the teenager’s grandmother, told NITV that children held in Unit 18 “are still babies — they’re not men yet”.

The teenager was being held in an adult section of the Casuarina maximum security adult prison, despite not being convicted of any crime. The ABC reported on October 20 that the young man was found unresponsive in his cell in the early hours of October 13 and was taken to hospital.

Unit 18 was supposed to be a temporary solution for some Banksia Hill Detention Centre inmates, after protests erupted in response to sustained abuse and poor conditions.

While the WA government was forced to shut down some sections of the detention centre, corrective services minister Paul Papalia later announced that Unit 18 would remain open indefinitely.

Merven Krakouer, barely containing his rage, told the vigil: “No Child should be locked up in an adult prison, ever. It’s not their country; they should not be taking them off country. They need to be with family. They need to be able to access visits. How are their families gonna travel hundreds and hundreds of miles, down here to Perth, to visit them? It cannot be done: our people are struggling to put food on the table.”

The family told NITV they would not rest until they get justice. They want the WA government to “act now” to stop another death in custody.

The recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody have still not been implemented.

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