Michael Suckling was an Aboriginal man. He was a loving father, son and brother. Michael was known for his sense of humour and loved having a laugh with his family and mates. Michael enjoyed being active outdoors.
Michael died at Ravenhall Correctional Centre Prison on 7 March 2021.
The Coronial Inquest into his passing will begin on Friday 24 February and is scheduled to run for 14 days.
The Coronial Inquest will examine the adequacy and cultural appropriateness of healthcare provided to Michael in prison, and the adequacy and culturally appropriateness of the conditions of his imprisonment.
Most concerningly, Michael weighed 199 kilograms when he died. He weighed just 82 kilograms in 2018 when he was first taken into custody.
Michael’s family also have concerns about his treatment in prison and the impact of lockdowns, program delivery and COVID-19 on his health.
Prison healthcare was a central focus of the Coroner’s findings into the passing of Veronica Nelson, which were handed down at the end of January. The Victorian Government announced it would transition from private healthcare to public healthcare in women’s prisons in response to the Inquest.
The Coroners Court is currently investigating several Aboriginal deaths in custody and all of them involve questions around the quality of healthcare in Victoria’s prisons.
The public gallery will be open for the Inquest and a live stream is also available.
Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS
“Coronial Inquests into Aboriginal deaths in custody are always incredibly difficult for families and loved ones, as well as the broader community. VALS is proud to stand with Michael Suckling’s family as they seek answers as to why he died in Ravenhall Prison.”
“Prison healthcare has been a common theme in all the recent Aboriginal deaths in custody in Victoria. Aboriginal people are more likely to die in prison because they were denied adequate healthcare than non-Indigenous people.”
“VALS has serious concerns about the use of lockdowns in prisons, the amount of time people are forced to stay in their cells, and the lack of access to culturally appropriate programs. These factors all have major impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.”
“The Coronial Inquest needs to expose the truth of what happened to Michael in that prison so that his family have a chance to grieve, and so that Victoria can better address its prison healthcare crisis.”