Almost three years after an indigenous transgender woman died under suspicious circumstances in a NSW prison; there is little support for a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
Veronica Baxter died in a men’s prison, age 34. She hung herself in early 2009, despite being assessed and found to be happy three separate times.
No one can remember who spoke to her last or what was said, and the coronial inquiry two years after the incident has been described as a ‘sham’ and ‘cover up’.
Ms Baxter had commenced hormone therapy, but there was no mention of whether she was provided with ongoing hormone medication in the coronial findings.
This is significant because The Department of Correctional Services and Justice Health have legal responsibility to provide transgender people continued access to their medicine if they have already started the treatment.
Transgender people are known to become suicidal if their hormone therapy is ended abruptly.
Two sets of health notes which would have indicated whether Ms Baxter was receiving this treatment have disappeared. Case notes entered into the computer on the14th of March at the MRRC were not saved and case notes from her time at the Sydney Police Centre in Surry Hills have gone missing.
In response to recent question son notice asking if Ms Baxter was supplied her hormone treatment while under the care of justice health, The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher, refused to confirm it, saying only that “All health services provided by Justice Health to Ms Baxter during her time in custody were in line with Justice Health policy.”
Mr Gallacher dismissed any concerns relating to her death, saying “Ms Baxter’s death was the subject of a Coronial Inquest.
The Coroner made no recommendations in relation to Ms Baxter’s death.”NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge is concerned about the validity of the inquest.
“It is a serious disappointment and a failing in the system that there was a two-year delay for half-day coronial inquest,’’ he said. “That delay has meant that witness recollections were stale.’’ “There was no expert psychological testimony about the impact of Veronica not receiving her hormone therapy in gaol. The details of her last desperate calls tithe prison’s emergency help line were not recorded and witnesses who may have taken the calls denied any recollection of what was said.”
“The death of Veronica Baxter under such disturbing circumstances cannot just be ignored. It is essential that this woman, who was doubly vulnerable identifying as both Aboriginal and transgender, receives some justice. Her family, her friends and the community deserve some real answers,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Ray Jackson, president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA), an advocacy group with a long history in dealing with aboriginal deaths in custody, believes Correctional Services and Justice Healthcare conspiring to cover up the circumstances around Veronica’s death.
“This inquiry was a sham. It did not resolve how she died. We saw whitewash,” he said.
By Jason Marshall