23 August 2019

On the eve of a coronial inquiry that will investigate what role systemic racism played in the death of Tanya Day, the Victorian Government has promised to abolish the crime of ‘public drunkenness’ and implement a health-based approach. This is the least they can do — the reform was recommended almost 30 years ago by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Sadly, “the majority of recommendations dating back to the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991 have either not been implemented or only partly implemented”, and Aboriginal people continue to bear the burden of that indifference. The Guardian’s analysis shows that the situation has worsened: “The proportion of Indigenous deaths where medical care was required but not given increased, from 35.4% to 38.6%. The proportion of Indigenous deaths where not all procedures were followed in the events leading up to the death increased from 38.8% to 41.2%.” There is no excuse for this. Hopefully the inquest will force some urgency beyond the Victorian Government’s preemptive response.