In a damning and disturbing finding today the WA Coroner has released their report into the death of Aboriginal Elder known as Mr Ward. The Coroner found that Mr Ward has died a "ghastly" death and essentially cooked in the police van he was being transported in. This case shows up both institutionalized racism and the flaws in the privatization of correctional services. Justice needs to be served in yet another Aboriginal Death in Custody.
Mr Ward was arrested on Australia Day 2008 (what a sad irony) for driving under the influence. He was placed in the back of a police van and driven 570 kilometers to a courthouse, remanded in custody and driven a further 352 kilometers to a prison. He was given a 600ml bottle of water on a hot day and placed in a van with no working air conditioner. The air in the van was as hot as 50 degrees. When he eventually collapsed from heat stress, the temperature of the metal floor was 56 degrees celcius and he essentially was "cooked" to death. He was found to have 3rd degree burns on his body after his death.
The indifference of the guards, the private company GSL who transported him and more broadly the correctional services (government) in WA are all on display in this case. The guards who only checked on him when he collapsed would not even go into the van to help the unconscious man, instead just flicking water on him before driving on to the Kalgoolie hospital. GSL runs such a dodgy operation that the guards who oversaw his death cannot be said to be even breaking any of the companies regulations. And as will be revealed on Four Corners this Monday 15h June - the Government knew the vans prisoners were being transported were a tragedy waiting to happen. Obviously the fact an Aboriginal man was being transported was a factor in the indifference and callousness shown in this case.
For more information read the following media reports
Perth Indymedia also have ongoing coverage of the case and the activist campaign for justice. http://perth.indymedia.org/
Also visit the WA Deaths in Custody Page for information on actions surrounding this case http://deathsincustody.org.au/ward