On Monday, the coronial inquest into the death of 22-year-old Aboriginal woman Ms Dhu offers another chilling reason for this mistrust.
Ms Dhu died in August 2014 while being held at the South Hedland police Police Station for unpaid fines of $3,622. That an Aboriginal woman in custody can be mocked, humiliated and have her wellbeing so neglected it potentially led to her death reads like a decades-old case contained within the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Yet these were precisely the details that emerged from the opening addresses at the coronial inquest into Ms Dhu’s death.
Ms Dhu died of cardiac arrest during her third visit from the Police Station to the Hedland Health Campus. She was imprisoned to “work off” unpaid fines under Western Australia’s tough sentencing laws – laws which, like the Northern Territory paperless arrests, have disproportionately affected Aboriginal people despite promises from the Premier to introduce reforms.