Tane Chatfield’s family: ‘We deserve justice’

August 6, 2020
Tane Chatfield's family outside the Lidcombe Coroners Court on July 17. Photo: Rachel Evans

Tane Chatfield was found hanging in his cell in Tamworth prison on September 20, 2017 after having served two years on remand without trial and despite not having been charged. Tane's mother and father spoke in the front of Lidcombe Coronial Court on July 17, the final day of the inquest into his death.

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Nioka Chatfield

Tane was a Gamilaraay, Gumbaynggirr and Wakka Wakka man. He was in Tamworth Prison for two years for a crime he did not commit.

He was 22 years old when he died. The night he supposedly broke the law, he was home in bed with his partner Merinda and their young son.

Like so many thousands of Aboriginal people, he was thrown into prison without trial. That decision would become a death sentence.

He was finally coming to the end of the trial in September 2017, and had done a good job giving evidence. Eight people had testified he did not commit the crime.

Suddenly, we were told by corrective services that Tane was in hospital … It had taken 5 hours from when Tane was in hospital for them to call us.

When we got there, two hours later (because we live two hours from Tamworth) we found our beautiful son Tane connected to a life support system. Corrective services officers were at the door, while we cried.

We sat and wondered if our boy was going to live or die. Hospital staff told our children that your brother’s brain is going to die. He never woke up.

Then, a long campaign for truth and justice began.

We have waited three years for answers and it has taken a huge toll on our family. We want an independent body to investigate Black deaths in custody. Our people must be centrally involved. The family must be given all the information straight away, and allowed to share our experiences and our views to fully inform the investigation.

Colin Chatfield

The system killed our boy. It is the system that needs to be changed. We want independent investigations into all Black deaths into custody. The law needs to be changed to close the monstrous loophole when they [the police] investigate their own.

We need more Aboriginal jobs and workers in the prison system.

We want proper detox and rehabilitation programs. We want all inmates to be able to have a free phone call when there is a medical situation.

We want all Aboriginal people to be released immediately while they wait for trial. We want justice for Tane.

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