Australian Aboriginal's death in custody investigated

Julieka Dhu, 22, died in a police cell in Western Australia in 2014, after she was locked up for not paying fines.

    An Australian coroner's inquest into a young Aboriginal woman's death in police custody - where she was being held for not paying fines - has wrapped up after four weeks of evidence.

    The inquest concluded on Thursday, with Coroner Ros Fogliani not expecting to release her findings for several months.

    Julieka Dhu, 22, died in August 2014 in a police cell in Port Hedland, in the state of Western Australia. She had been arrested and held over the non-payment of about $3,000 in minor fines.

    Before her death, she was twice taken in the back of a police van to the local hospital after complaining of feeling unwell. Both times, after a quick check-over, she was returned to her cell.  

    She died the third time she was taken to the hospital - after her condition deteriorated further.


    READ MORE: Australia fails to close gap on Aboriginal disadvantage


    A post-mortem examination found that she had suffered pneumonia and blood poisoning.

    Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Port Hedland, said Dhu's death has angered indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, who have had enough of people dying in custody.

    "About 1,400 Australians have died in police custody since 1980, among them a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people, because they make up a disproportionately high number of those in prison," Thomas said.

    "After much public pressure, the coronial inquest is looking into the exact circumstances of Dhu's death - and whether she was a victim of institutional racism."

    Dhu's family is also pushing for changes in how authorities deal with people who have not paid minor fines.

    "She paid the biggest price. I want the truth and justice for Juleika," her grandmother Carol Roe told Al Jazeera.

    "They knew she was sick. Why didn't they ring an ambulance to take her. No, they chucked her in the back of a paddy wagon to take her - and that’s not right."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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