Aboriginal Woman's Brutal Death In Custody Exposes Australia’s Shame

The woman was reportedly arrested over unpaid fines of $2,626 in South Hedland, Western Australia, only two days before she died in custody.


An aboriginal woman’s brutal slaying in prison has exposed the racial divide in one of the world’s most developed and “happiest” countries in the world: Australia.

The video above is CCTV footage of how the woman, currently identified only as Ms. Dhu for security reasons, was mistreated just before she died at a hospital.

The harrowing clip from Aug. 4, 2014, shows police officers dragging Ms. Dhu, who appears to be unconscious. An hour later she was dead.

She was 22 years old.

Ms. Dhu was reportedly arrested over unpaid fines of $2,626 in South Hedland, Western Australia, only two days before she died in custody.

During her detention, Ms. Dhu complained about pain in her ribs. Although she was taken to the hospital at least twice, coroner Ros Fogliani claimed a chest X-ray was not performed nor was her temperature taken.

“Errors were made and there was a missed opportunity to treat Ms. Dhu for her infection,” Fogliani said, adding the woman’s treatment was “unprofessional” and “inhumane.”

Far from helping the woman, the medical staff at South Hedland Police Station thought Ms. Dhu was "faking it" before she died from septicemia and pneumonia, which resulted from a broken rib — which also means she wasn’t “faking” her pain.

"It is profoundly disturbing to witness the appalling treatment of this young woman at the lock-up on 4 August 2014,” stated Fogliani, who has called for ending imprisonment of people over non-payment of fines.

"In her final hours she was unable to have the comfort of the presence of her loved ones, and was in the care of a number of police officers who disregarded her welfare and her right to humane and dignified treatment."

The video above, released as part of an inquest, has renewed debate over structural racism being rampant in Australia, especially in the country’s criminal justice system. According to an August report by the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration, Indigenous incarceration rate soared 52 percent over the past 10 years.

Authors from the Australian National University found “rehabilitation programs that fail to acknowledge language, culture, traditions and current life situations of Indigenous offenders are unlikely to be effective and could also contribute to further offending.”

In fact, Indigenous prisoners accounted for 27 percent of prisoners, despite making up only 2 percent of population, as of June 2015.

And while the racism contributed to Ms. Dhu’s treatment at the hands of police officers, it has also come into play in the justice system, considering how, despite video evidence, no one has been held accountable for the woman’s death so far.

"We really thought that there would be charges laid against the police but we should also remember that we are dealing with a colonial structure here that was never going to represent our people," Janine Kelly, Ms. Dhu's aunt, told ABC North West, adding the family is “absolutely disgusted” with the inquest.

"It's murder. If they are unprofessional and they are not doing the right thing, it's murder."

Banner credit: Reuters

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