Today the Coroner postponed the date of the Inquest into the death of Veronica Marie Nelson. The Inquest will now commence on 26 April 2022. The Coroner also provided the parties a further opportunity to make submissions regarding expert evidence and outstanding requests for evidence.

Veronica Marie Nelson was a strong Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman. She was connected to her culture and close to her family and community. She was 37 years old when she died at Dame Phillis Frost Centre in Victoria, only 3 days after being arrested and refused bail for shoplifting-related offences. During her final night in prison, she was distressed and cried out for medical assistance a number of times. She died alone in her prison cell.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service’s Wirraway team is representing Percy Lovett, Veronica Nelson’s partner of 22 years, in the Coronial Inquest into her death.

VALS believes that the Inquest will shine a light on serious deficiencies in the quality of care in Victorian prisons and the human cost of the current bail laws, which have disproportionately impacted on Aboriginal people, jeopardising their health, wellbeing and safety.

These laws, and the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test, have had a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal women and have seen more and more Aboriginal women like Veronica remanded to jail for minor offences.

In Victoria, Aboriginal women make up 13% of the prison population, but only account for 1% of the general population.

Quotes Attributable to James Percy Lovett, partner of Veronica Nelson

“Veronica was a strong woman – stronger than me. She’d always help someone on the street. She taught me everything about our ways. It’s got me beat how she knew what she knew. She knew everything.”

“I don’t want it to happen again. I want to make it easier for the next women who get locked up. I want them to be looked after more. I want them to get more support and treatment in the community.”

“I want everyone to know why and how they went wrong and didn’t do the job they were supposed to do. I want people to know, because she was a strong woman.”

“I want accountability.”

“I want Veronica to be heard.”

Quotes Attributable to Moricia Vrymoet, Director of Legal Services at Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

“Veronica Nelson should be alive today, living with her community and sharing culture.”

“It gives us some hope that the Inquest will examine the systemic issues surrounding bail laws and healthcare in Victorian prisons. We need the Victorian Government to pay attention and learn from their mistakes.”

“The bail laws introduced by Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Government have become a lethal weapon of the State and are being used against Aboriginal people.”

Media inquiries:   Patrick Cook, Senior Communications and Media Officer, 0417 003 910, pcook@vals.org.au