Tukaki calls on Inquiry after New Zealand mother of two dies in Australian immigration custody



The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has called the way a New Zealand mother of two died in custody awaiting deportation from Australia was a disgrace and further evidence that the system is not just broken but responsible for taking lives. A 53 year mother of two, originally from Christchurch, allegedly took her life having been in detention for just over six months:


“It is absolutely heartbreaking and completely unnecessary. This didn’t need to happen but when you also look at the circumstances involved questions must be asked of why someone who needed mental health support was essentially left to her devices. And let’s be really clear here – this system is operated by a corporate called SERCO who I would strongly argue as a business are less interested in people and more in profit.” Tukaki said.

“And to add to what is obviously a breakdown in standard operating procedures is just the lack of humanity this business and therefore the previous Federal Government have shown. But let’s be really clear here – if someone requires medication the standard operating procedures require it to be given at the appropriate time; not hours late by which time the person might be even more anxious and not completely in control of their thoughts” Tukaki said


“In my discussions the last 24 hours with representatives in Australia I can tell you this is a classic and sad case of the Department of Home Affairs not being able to distinguish between the job they have been told to do and the care and support of those in their custody no matter the circumstances. This is why I have again asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to investigate and I have also written to the State Coroner to ensure we can get to the facts of what has happened. My concern is not just for this wahine and her whanau its now also for the hundreds of other New Zealanders also in Immigration detention” Tukaki said


Tukaki will also include a request to stand the officers involved down until an investigation has been carried out but emphasised the need for independence.


“People expect that with the change in Government that somehow all of this will go away. The truth is it won’t and the new Prime Minister indicated as much in a press stand up only last week. In all reality we need to ensure that our whanau in detention have access to strong representation and that includes knowing their rights before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Tukaki anticipates being in Australia to talk with senior Federal Government officials in the next few weeks as the shape of Government takes place. Tukaki said that at the moment the new Minister for Home Affairs is not certain given the former shadow spokesperson failed to win a seat in the recent election – beaten out by an independent.


“Irrespective of where to from here a mum has lost her life, a whanau is grieving and now we must ensure they are reunited” Tukaki said

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