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Issue #1448      24 March 2010

Rally calls for compensation for Mr Ward’s family

More than two years have passed since Aboriginal Elder Mr Ward died while being transported in a prison van in searing heat from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. As The Guardian goes to press the WA government announced State Cabinent has approved a $200,000 interim payment to Mr Ward's family.

Nine months have passed since the coronial inquest by Alistair Hope made findings of culpability against the prison transport contractor AIMS (now G4S), the two drivers and the government of Western Australia through the negligence of the Department of Corrective Services in the way they failed to act on problems which precipitated these garish events.

After nine months those found responsible by the coroner for having contributed to Mr Ward’s death have also avoided being charged and dealt with before a court.

On March 17, 200 people gathered outside the State Parliament and called on the government of Premier Colin Barnett to deliver not only on the 14 recommendations of the coroner, which include the reference of charges against those responsible for Mr Ward’s death but also to pay compensation of $200,000 to the family of Mr Ward.

It was only after the rally that the Attorney General, Christian Porter, confirmed an interim ex-gratia payment of compensation would be paid by the end of March.

Compounding the tragedy of Mr Ward’s death in custody was the news that earlier that week there had been another death of an Aboriginal man in custody; father of five Deon Woods, a diabetic who died at the Perth police watch house.

His brother Paul Hayward became emotional when he recalled anguish of not being able to view Deon Woods’ body or “take him home to lay him to rest”.

His brother, who was given the all clear by doctors, should never have left hospital, Mr. Hayward said.

Giz Watson, Greens Member of the Legislative Counsel told the crowd that the government can move fast when it wants to “But not for black fellahs.”

“We don’t want multinational corporations with appalling records to run our prisons or aspects of their operations,” continued Ms Watson. “This government could use Section 60 of the Court Security and Custodial Services Act 1999, which states in part that the minister may on behalf of the state terminate or suspend a contract if in the opinion of the state that there are grounds for doing so and the termination is in the public interest”.

At the conclusion of the rally, 70 of the demonstrators filled the public gallery of the parliament, causing parliament to be briefly suspended while the demonstrators were escorted from the gallery.

Next article – Western Sydney nurses angry at staff cuts

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