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Fourth Indigenous Person Has Died In Custody In Three Weeks

Fourth Indigenous Person Has Died In Custody In Three Weeks

Barkindji man Anzac Sullivan died during a police pursuit in Broken Hill on March 18.

Jessica Lynch

Jessica Lynch

Warning: This story contains a photo of a deceased Indigenous person, published with permission from the family.

An Indigenous man has died in custody, marking the fourth First Nations person to do so in three weeks.

Barkindji man Anzac Sullivan died during a police pursuit in Broken Hill on March 18, the Aboriginal Legal Service of NSW and the ACT revealed.

Sullivan's sister spoke out in wake of her brother's death, saying: "Anzac was a loved brother, nephew, son and uncle. He was loved by many in his community and he will be missed."

NSW Police said officers had attended an address in the NSW town over an outstanding warrant.

"It is alleged the 37-year-old man ran from police. A short time later, patrolling officers were alerted to a male suffering a medical episode nearby," the statement said.

"Police commenced CPR on the man before he was taken to Broken Hill Hospital and declared decreased."

A critical incident investigation has since been launched amid the man's death.

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT principal solicitor Sarah Crellin said she was devastated and furious upon hearing the news of yet another Indigenous death in police custody.

"Any death in custody is an absolute tragedy, and our hearts go out to the Sullivan family and their community," Crellin said on Thursday.

"We are devastated and furious that another precious life has been lost."

She added that the number of Indigenous deaths in custody of late was a 'huge red flag'.

"For four deaths to occur in the space of little over a fortnight is a huge red flag that something is seriously wrong with police and corrections systems in Australia," she said.

"As we approach the 30th anniversary, it's unfathomable that more lives are being taken, with no sign of meaningful action from governments."

Greens senator and Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman, Lidia Thorpe, also spoke out about the incident while expressing her sympathies to Sullivan's family and community.

Greens senator and DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjamara woman Lidia Thorpe.

She added that First Nations people are sad and 'angry beyond words'.

"Why should our people keep dying in places where they're meant to be kept safe? This system is deeply racist," she said.

Sullivan's death comes following the death of three other Indigenous peoples, including a man who was found dead at Ravenhall Correctional Centre on March 7.

A statement from the Centre said: "All deaths in custody are reported to the Coroner, who formally determines the cause of death.

"As the prisoner was an Aboriginal man, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus was advised on the day and we continue to work closely with them and the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria.

"The family of the man were notified with our condolences, and a Smoking Ceremony is being arranged.

"We recognise that all deaths in custody have impacts on family members, friends, corrections staff and the Aboriginal community, and we're working to ensure they are provided with the support they need."

Several days earlier, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was found unresponsive in a jail cell at Long Bay Hospital.

Three days after the incident at Long Bay Jail, a woman in her 50s took her own life in Silverwater Women's Prison.

Long Bay Prison.

NSW authorities came under fire following the deaths, with Greens MP David Shoebridge saying the public should have been notified of the incidents.

Shoebridge criticised the government's non-disclosure of the two deaths, saying: "Two First Nations deaths in a single week is devastating and the government's new policy of secrecy only adds to the growing concern about First Nations deaths in custody.

"The government's response to the Black Lives Matter movement has not been to address deaths in custody but to hide them from public scrutiny."

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Featured Image Credit: Aboriginal Legal Service

Topics: Australia