Statement on Steven Freeman coronial inquest findings released today

Shane Rattenbury, MLA

Today Coroner Cook released his findings into the coronial inquest into the tragic death of Steven Freeman at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) in May 2016.

The ACT Government acknowledges the Coroner’s findings and will now take the time to carefully consider them and respond formally to each of the seven recommendations made.

As understood today, the ACT Government has made significant progress against the majority of these recommendations to date. Coroner Cook noted in his findings that further actions that have taken place since Mr Freeman’s death were not able to be reflected in today’s findings.

Through the Government’s response to the Moss Review, there has been significant progress made to improve detainee health, care and safety at the AMC. This has involved an extensive reform agenda, which is being overseen by an independently chaired steering committee. It has also seen the creation and appointment of the ACT’s first Inspector of Correctional Services.

Over the past year, the ACT Government has actively supported the coronial process to provide all relevant documents and evidence during the Inquest, transparency that was noted in the Coroner’s findings today.

The ACT Government also acknowledges that no adverse findings were made against ACT Health or Corrective Services staff as part of the Coroner’s findings, however, that does not mean that systemic issues were not identified.

Comments attributable to Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury:

“Steven Freeman’s death in May 2016 remains a profound tragedy. I would like to take this opportunity again today reiterate my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Steven Freeman.

“The ACT Government acknowledges the ongoing grief, loss and sadness that Steven Freeman’s family has experienced, particularly on a day like today, which no family should have to experience.

“As Minister for Corrections, I am mindful of the effect this death in custody has had on other detainees in the AMC, particularly those who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The ACT Government also acknowledges the significant impact that Mr Freeman’s death has had on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Canberra.

“I want to reiterate to the community that we are committed to ensuring that our system operates as effectively as possible and to ensure the protection of all people in our custody.

“Significant work has been undertaken to improve health services at the AMC over the past year with the implementation of the Moss Review’s recommendations, including implementation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Model of Care.

“It was a review that identified that the Government can and must do more to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody receive appropriate health care and these reforms will continue to be implemented.

“The ACT Government will carefully consider today’s findings from the coronial inquest into Steven Freeman’s death and respond in due course.”

Documents relating to the Moss Review and Government response are available at: www.justice.act.gov.au.