CONTENT WARNING: Indigenous death in custody, racism, police violence
The coronial inquest into the death of Bailey Mackander, a 20-year old Wiradjuri man, commenced this Wednesday with NSW Deputy Coroner Elaine Truscott overseeing the inquest. Today, a number of community activist groups gathered at the NSW State Coroners Court to support Mr Mackander’s family as they seek justice for their son.
Mr Mackander was on remand at the Kariong Correctional Centre for drug and driving offences, when concerns for his risk of self-harm and suicide arose after consulting with a psychologist three days prior to his death.
ABC News reported that “during his time on remand … Mr Mackander was ‘desperate to be released’ after being told his case would be adjourned until January 2020.”
Mr Mackander died in November 2019 from injuries sustained after falling over a 10-metre wall during a transfer at Gosford Hospital where he escaped from two Corrective Officers who were supposed to take him back to the correctional centre.
Nadine Silva, an NITV journalist, reported: “A lead police investigator told the court circumstances around the 20-year-old Wiradjuri man’s death were ‘avoidable,’ citing an unfenced wall … and the medical treatment he received in hospital.”
During the inquest on Friday 7 May, a Justice Health nurse testified, “He should never have been taken to Kariong. He’d just seen a psychiatrist, he hadn’t long started on a new medication. It’s an isolated site. Mental health, there’s [sic] no services… Kariong wasn’t realistically an appropriate site for him.”
Over the course of the inquest, the court was shown CCTV footage and audio of Mr Mackander pacing the cell, begging officers at the Kariong Correctional Centre for help, weeping, retching, and lying on the floor in a fetal position. He could be heard crying out “I can’t breathe.”
Members of the community, including the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and the University of Sydney’s Autonomous Collective Against Racism (ACAR), attended hearings in support of the Mackander family.
There have been at least seven Indigenous deaths in custody across Australia since the beginning of March, coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Black Death In Custody. Bailey Mackander’s death is one of many under the carceral system that has seen little reform since the Royal Commission. Despite the spike in Indigenous deaths in custody over the last several months, Mr Mackander’s death has seen little attention from mainstream media.
The inquest has since been adjourned to continue on the 6th of July.