JOINT MEDIA RELEASE 26 April 2022
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), Dhadjowa Foundation and Robinson Gill Lawyers
The Coronial Inquest into the death in custody of Veronica Nelson begins today. The Inquest will examine the cause and circumstances of Veronica’s passing at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre on 2 January 2020. It will examine the adequacy of the healthcare she was provided in prison, the impact of Veronica’s Aboriginality on her death, and Victoria’s bail laws.
Coronial inquests too often dehumanises the person whose death is being examined – her mother, Aunty Donna Nelson and partner, Percy Lovett, want everyone to remember who Veronica was and how she lived her life with love, generosity and a deep connection to her spirituality.
Veronica Marie Nelson was a proud Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman. She belonged to a large family, with 6 siblings and 10 children that she loved and cared for as her own.
She was a deeply spiritual woman, whose connection to her culture was incredibly important to her; this was a gift that she would regularly share with those around her. These teachings live on in those lucky enough to have learned from her, including her nephews who are dancing today.
Veronica was well-known as a helper, and she would give whatever she could to those who needed it – she was someone to talk to, someone who’d listen, someone who’d give you food and a place to rest. She was a well-respected member of the Fitzroy Aboriginal community.
Veronica was resilient and had a fighting spirit. Veronica had a big personality and a beautiful laugh. She made the world better for those around her and she was deeply loved.
The Inquest will be a traumatic process for her family and loved ones, but one that they hope will shed light on the events surrounding Veronica’s passing. And one that they hope will bring accountability for those that let her down and ultimately deliver Veronica justice.
Quotes Attributable to Aunty Donna Nelson, Mother of Veronica Nelson
“Veronica and I connected personally and spiritually. She wasn’t only my daughter – she was my best friend and sister.”
“Veronica didn’t have children, but in our culture, your brother and sister’s children are your children – so when you took Veronica away from me, she left behind 10 children and one grandchild.”
“The lessons learned from this inquest must stop my people from dying in custody. But let’s not lose focus. This inquest is first and foremost about Veronica, and how a broken criminal justice system locked my daughter up and let her die while she begged for help, over and over.”
“We are still connected spiritually and her spirit won’t rest until those who are responsible for Veronica’s death are exposed and held to account. Only then will my Poccum be free.”
Quotes Attributable to Percy Lovett, Partner of Veronica Nelson
“Veronica was my other half, we did everything together. We had plans for the future. Even now it spins me out how much I miss her. I walk downstairs and I still expect her to be walking around the corner. I loved her very much and I am missing her that much I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“Veronica was a very strong woman. She was also a very brainy person. She taught me so much about our culture. Whenever she would talk about Blackfellas, the stories she would come out with were unreal. She knew a hell of a lot more than me. She really woke me up and made me listen.”
“Veronica was always helping people. She would help people if she saw them in the street. She always made sure you were well off, that you had everything you needed. If you didn’t have it, she would go out and get it. She never knocked anybody if they needed help.
“Veronica shouldn’t have been in prison. She shouldn’t have died. I want to know what happened. I want someone to be held accountable.”