MEDIA RELEASE 1st July 2021

Uniformed Victoria Police attend Coronial Inquest for ‘security’, compounding the grief and trauma of the Thomas Family

Quotes Attributable to Uncle Ray, Raymond Noel’s father

“It is disgusting and offensive behaviour from the police once again towards us as an Aboriginal family at such a critical time like this, when we are trying to find answers in relation to the death of our son, Raymond Noel. After waiting four years, this is unacceptably immoral and says something about their level of humanity.”

Quotes Attributable to Lee-Anne Carter, Statewide Community Justice Programs Leader

“Victoria Police’s decision to deploy police to the coronial hearing with absolutely no justification shows an utter lack of respect for the Thomas family. Any family or community member who has experienced the loss of a loved one is in pain and grieving. This is often harder when there is no closure and your loved one’s matter is delayed as a result of processes and/or inquiries or coronial investigations. This pain and wait is indescribable.”  

“It is well known that Aboriginal people feel distrust and are fearful of court settings due to their experience of both courts and police. It is inevitable that yesterday’s actions led to distress. Victoria Police showed inexcusable disregard of the feelings of the Thomas family, friends and community present.”  

“Victoria Police’s actions undermine the work that the Coroner’s Court has been doing with Victorian Aboriginal communities in changing their protocols and practices to ensure a safe environment, and ensuring every Aboriginal person is treated with respect and dignity. These practices work towards addressing trauma and institutional distrust, by implementing practices and procedures that ensure cycles of grief and loss are not perpetuated.”

“Aboriginal Communities have worked tirelessly to improve Victoria Police culture and practices, but they cannot do this alone. Yesterday’s behaviour is an example of what we have been fighting against for generations – the criminalisation of our people when they are grieving, when they are respectfully participating in the justice system, when they advocate for change that would benefit everyone, not only Aboriginal people.”


Quotes Attributable to George Selvanera, Acting CEO of the 
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

“The dignity of the Thomas family, in the face of such unimaginable grief, has repeatedly been acknowledged by the Coroner. In stark contrast, the systemic racism so pervasive in the legal system, in Victoria Police, manifested itself in an utterly disgraceful way yesterday.”

“We expect a public apology from Victoria Police to the family and the Aboriginal community. We call on the Police Commissioner and the Minister to publicly acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Victoria Police, and undertake to immediately establish an independent inquiry led by the Aboriginal Community into systemic racism within Victoria Police.”

“But it is not only up to Victoria Police to drive this change. We also expect the AttorneyGeneral to work with independent experts within the Aboriginal Community to examine the impacts of systemic racism within the justice system and to develop solutions to address this.”

“These demands, following yet another shameful day of policing in Victoria, are not new; they repeat decades-long advocacy calling for genuine police accountability, and a safe and equitable system for all.”
 

Media inquiries: 

Andreea Lachsz,
Head of Policy, Communications and Strategy
alachsz@vals.org.au