The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) strongly supports Victorian Coroner Simon McGregor’s recommendations highlighted in today’s hearing into the death in custody of Aboriginal woman Veronica Nelson on 2 January 2020.
In delivering his comprehensive findings and recommendations, Coroner McGregor has shone light on our carceral and clinical systems’ failings, largely invisible to the community, which contributed to Ms Nelson’s preventable death.
Thirty-two years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s final report, Coroner McGregor’s forensic account of the events that preceded Ms Nelson’s tragic death must trigger urgent cultural, systemic and societal change.
Those with the power to implement change have a gravely important task — to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody always receive timely, appropriate care, medical treatment, and drug and alcohol withdrawal treatment, without discrimination.
History is littered with evidence that stigma is the enemy of society’s most vulnerable. Coroner McGregor found harmful, outdated views towards those suffering drug withdrawal symptoms contributed to Ms Nelson’s death. His important findings and recommendations must accelerate a health-based approach to drug and alcohol addiction and withdrawal to replace the ‘moral lens’.
With the heaviest of hearts we send our sincerest condolences to Ms Nelson’s family, loved ones and friends. Ms Nelson’s suffering is unthinkable. Your loss is unimaginable. The failures that contributed to her death must be the catalyst for deep change in our legal, bail, remand, prison and health services.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has more than 97,000 members – nurses, midwives and aged care personal care workers – across the Victorian health, mental health and aged care sectors.
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