Murris condemn latest death in custody

March 12, 2010

Two hundred Aboriginal people and supporters rallied outside state parliament on March 10 to protest the death in custody of another young Aboriginal man in a Queensland prison.

Sheldon Currie, 18, died in hospital on February 20, four days after he was found unconscious in his cell in Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. He had not been convicted of any crime but was being held on remand, waiting to be tried for non-violent property offences.

His mother, Donna Smith, said he was denied proper medical treatment in jail and died as a result of the prison's negligence. "I just want to know why he never got help when he should have", she told the March 11 Courier Mail. "He was our boy, our baby.

"What I heard from another inmate is that he was complaining for days and he was just given Panadol and sent away."

She said another prisoner had found her son face-down in his cell and demanded help, "almost causing a riot".

At the rally, Aboriginal leaders issued a call for an immediate coronial inquiry into Currie's death. A delegation, including members of the family and community leaders, met the minister for Aboriginal affairs, to demand this.

Aboriginal prison chaplain Reverend Alex Gator said the Aboriginal community would not accept a finding that cleared the corrections department. She called for one minute's silence to commemorate all those who had died in custody.

Murri community leader and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson said the death of a young boy was "so tragic, and could have been avoided. It is 19 years since the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. Since then, there has been an increase in Indigenous jailing rates, and an increase in the rate of black deaths in custody."

He said: "How many marches and rallies have we had over black deaths in custody in that time? We send our solidarity to the people of Palm Island in their fight for justice for Mulrunji, at the re-opened inquest going on now in Townsville."

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