Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas (referred to as “Raymond Noel” for cultural reasons) was a proud Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man.

Raymond Noel died in a police pursuit on 25 June 2017. Raymond Noel’s family have waited a long time for a chance to learn the truth about the circumstances that led to his death, and to have their views on police practices and procedures heard in Court.

VALS is proud to support the Thomas family in their quest for justice. This inquest will take place four years after Raymond’s passing, and 30 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It is unacceptable that Governments have failed to implement the recommendations and end preventable deaths in custody and in police presence.

Police pursuits, like all policing tactics, disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This matter highlights the devastating impact that a police pursuit, initiated as a result of a relatively minor traffic matter, can have for an individual, his family and his community. VALS also notes that Victoria Police has been scrutinised and criticised for its approach to pursuits in previous coronial inquests and investigations.

VALS hopes that the inquest into Raymond Noel’s tragic death will provide a fresh opportunity to examine Victoria Police’s pursuit procedures to ensure that they provide clear guidance to officers and prioritise community safety over all other concerns.

VALS also hopes to scrutinise the post-incident investigation of the pursuit. VALS has long condemned the practice of having police officers conduct investigations into police conduct. Independent bodiesshould be tasked with investigations into police contact deaths to ensure community confidence.

Quotes Attributable to Aunty Debbie and Uncle Ray, Raymond Noel’s parents

“Raymond Noel was a gentle giant who loved his family.”

“Every day since Raymond Noel died has been very difficult for us. We have wanted our day in court for so long, but we know that it will be a painful time and we hope that we will finally get some answers.”

“As Aboriginal people, we live with the fear of how racism will affect us every day. Being harassed or mistreated by police is one of our greatest fears and our hearts are broken because that fear became reality for our son.”

“No matter what happens in court, we will hold on to all the wonderful memories we have of Raymond Noel. We will remember how much he cherished his niece, Leahtia. We will remember how close he was with his brothers and how they would wake up early in the morning and wake everyone up with their laughter. We will remember that he was a proud Aboriginal man.”

“We hope that the Coroner can recommend changes to Victoria Police and the Victorian Government that will ensure no one else has to experience the grief that our family is still processing.”

Quotes Attributable to George Selvanera, Acting CEO of VALS

“VALS requests that the media and public respect the Thomas family during this incredibly difficult period. In accordance with practice adopted by the Coroners Court in this inquest, we ask that you refer to Raymond Noel as “Raymond Noel” or use his full name, Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas. To do otherwise would cause considerable distress to his family. We also ask that everyone be understanding that these are sensitive matters, and that it will be a difficult time for the Thomas family.”