Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story contains the name of a person who has died.
The family of a First Nations man who died in a Sydney jail is demanding answers and a coronial inquest.
Frank ‘Gud’ Coleman, a 43-year-old Ngemba man, died on Thursday at Long Bay jail.
Coleman, who was born in Brewarrina in northwest NSW and raised in Mount Druitt in western Sydney, is the ninth Indigenous person to die in police or prison custody in Australia since March.
At least 478 Indigenous people have died in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Coleman’s family and the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT are demanding answers after learning he was found unresponsive in his cell.
His former partner Skye Hipwell, who is the mother of three of his children, said he was healthy, and his death had come as a “complete shock”.
The family’s grief is compounded by the fact they hadn’t seen him in person for more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions in NSW jails.
“He died alone in a jail cell, and no one knows anything about his last minutes,” Ms Hipwell said.
She described him as an outgoing, friendly man who loved his children and was “extremely staunch and proud in his Aboriginality, his culture, and community”.
Coleman’s family say they want the autopsy and coronial inquest as soon as possible.
Karly Warner, chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, said it was devastating to have this conversation with “yet another” Aboriginal family whose loved one died alone behind bars.
“Life-saving recommendations (from the 1991 commission) remain on the shelf while people like Frank suffer lonely and preventable deaths,” Ms Warner said.
Australian Associated Press