On the 22nd September 2017, Mr TANE CHATFIELD aged 22 years old when he died in custody.
A proud Gamilaraay, Gumbaynggirr and Wakka Wakka man.
Tane was locked alone in a cell, despite consistently requesting otherwise. An attempt by him to call his family was denied by guards. Family members maintain that Tane suffered ongoing brutality at the hands of guards while in prison and hold the prison system responsible for the death of their son.
The coronial inquest heard extensive evidence of negligence and breaches of policy by Corrective Services officers and Justice Health staff in the last hours of Tane’s life.
Corrective Services NSW has claimed his death was “not suspicious”.
Our lives were changed forever.
Our son Tane had been on remand for two years in Tamworth prison for a crime we believe he did not commit. He was coming near to the end of his trial and had done a fantastic job giving evidence to clear his name. Tane was 22 yrs old with 1 son. We were so excited, thinking he would be home soon. Suddenly we were told by NSW Corrective Service Officers that Tane was in Tamworth hospital and we could have an emergency visit.
When we got there 2hrs later (as we live 2hrs away from Tamworth) we found our beautiful son Tane connected to a life support machine. He was lying there fully naked, only a pair of hospital socks on. It had taken five hours after Tane was hospitalised for them to call us. The staff at the hospital had no answers for us about what had happened to Tane. Corrective Service Officers sat at his door while we cried, we sat and wondered if our boy was going to live or die. Hospital staff told our other children that “your brother’s brain is dying”. He never woke up.
Then, began our long campaign for truth and justice, which we continue today. Our family has travelled many times to rally, joining other families who have lost loved ones in police and prison custody. Meeting with lawyers and supporters also requires constant travel. Without any resources behind us, our kids have not been able to participate in the lots of this campaigning. Waiting three and a half years with no answers about our son’s death has taken a huge toll on our family.
With grieving, you are supposed to have a process of acceptance and moving forward. But without answers we are stuck.
With the huge growth of the Black Lives Matter movement we are feeling a new sense of hope. Resources are starting to come in behind families like ours who are fighting against deaths in custody. We have been able to purchase a mini-bus that will allow our whole family to travel and that means a lot to us. We need more support.
The month of July, 2020 will be a huge month for our family and our campaign. We are travelling to Kempsey to rally for justice for David Dungay. Then we will be joining a big protest march in Sydney. Then we have the start of the inquest into the death of Tane starting in Sydney on July 13. We really need your help. We need finances to keep us on the road. We will have big costs for accommodation and travel. We need support to stay on our feet through this hard time.
Nioka Chatfield – Mother of Tane Chatfield
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