By Ben Wilson
Tanya Day should not have died. She did because she was indigenous Australian and in police custody. These two simple facts say it all.
Released video footage shows the lack of care provided when she was obviously in suffering severe trauma. It is inconceivable that this would occur, unless there exists racial profiling and the victim being considered something less than human.
CCTV footage of Tanya Day’s final conscious hours
Video by ABC News (Australia)
The footage shows Tanya falling a number of times, hitting her head and losing consciousness. Police officers fail to take appropriate action.
She had been pulled off a train for being drunk. This does not excuse treating the mother with disrespect. This, claim her supporters, is what she got.
No one has argued that she was violent and required a response dealing with this.
Her family, friends and other people of Australia’s First Nations are justifiably upset and demand something be done about it.
Tanya was taken from the Castlemaine police station in an ambulance on 16 December 2017. She died soon after 17 days later.
Any reasonable person would think that the appropriate action from the police force would be to carry out an immediate investigation.
Although officially an inquiry began straight away, nothing really happened. There has been what looks like a concerted effort to cover up the circumstances of the death.
It took 12 months for the first coronial directions hearing to take place. Almost another year for the coronial inquest to begin. Without Tanya Day’s supporters pushing, it is doubtful that even this would have taken place yet.
By the time the inquest wound up on Friday, it was clear that the police effort to hide information is continuing.
It happens in Victoria as well.
Medical experts testified that the level of care given was inadequate.
The officers involved in the incident could not remember crucial details.
Key witness for the police, superintendent Sussan Thomas, was not able to answer pertinent questions. Although she is now in charge of the indigenous and youth division in Victoria, it is clear she had come to court knowing little of the case.
This is what prompted Peter Morrissey, representing the Day family, to suggest “the witness had been put there specifically because she doesn’t know. “She is a “decoy,” he said.
Outside the court, Tanya Day’s oldest daughter Belinda Day, called the failure to provide a proper witness “insulting.”
What happened to Tanya Day is a recurring pattern. It includes a knee jerk cover up response from the police. At best, those responsible get a reprimand and get to keep their jobs. When they have to, the family is given an apology, with the rider that the police have done nothing wrong.
The Day family have been demanding an apology. But even this has been denied.
Tanya’s family want an independent investigation and criminal charges to be laid on those responsible.
Unless attention is put on coming to terms with endemic racism within the police force, why this exists, and adequate and appropriate action taken to counter it, deaths like this will continue.