Campaigners for the truth about the death of Aboriginal transwoman Veronica Baxter in Silverwater jail have welcomed a NSW Greens push for a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
Last week, NSW Deputy Coroner Paul MacMahon ruled Baxter’s 2009 death a suicide despite four emergency calls from her cell on the night of her death.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge (pictured) told the Star Observer he was hopeful of securing parliamentary support for an inquiry.
“The sooner the inquiry can sit, the fresher the evidence will be, and the sooner answers can be obtained,” Shoebridge said.
Shoebridge said he hoped to have corrective services officers who dealt with Baxter, a counsellor who spoke to her, and a medical expert who could testify to the effects of withdrawal from hormone therapy, come before the inquiry to shed light on the period leading up to her death.
Shoebridge said he had requested exhibits and transcripts from the inquest, but he understood Baxter had not been given access to her hormone replacement medication while in jail.
Withdrawal from hormone therapy has been known to cause distress in some people and Baxter was already withdrawing from heroin on entry to prison.
She reportedly told a counsellor she was feeling “not feminine” two days before her death but was otherwise described as “happy, smiling and content”.
Shoebridge said it was remarkable that records were not kept of prisoners’ emergency calls.
“It is an extraordinary situation where there was a death in custody, preceded by a series of emergency calls, with no police statements or records taken of the content of these calls,” he said.
“We are left in the situation of witnesses being asked two years later to recall events, with no contemporary records available to allow for more accurate recall. At a minimum this must be remedied with a clear requirement to record and maintain all prisoner emergency calls for a minimum seven-year period.”
“A two-year delay for a half-day hearing is not the way of obtaining justice for Veronica Baxter. The coronial inquiry has raised more questions than it has answered and a further detailed investigation is now a priority.”
Baxter’s supporters welcomed the Greens’ move.
“The major parties are bereft in this area and I’m pleased David [Shoebridge] is lobbying for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Veronica Baxter’s death,” Aboriginal Social Justice Association president Ray Jackson said.
“We want a new police investigation and we want a new inquest.
“There are so many unanswered questions remaining and there are anomalies arising from the deputy coroner’s inquest.”
Jackson and Community Action Against Homophobia are organising a rally outside the Glebe Coroners Court at noon on April 15 to call for a new coronial inquest — which is also the 20th anniversary of the final report of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody.