Indigenous man dies in Sydney jail cell

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The family of an Indigenous man who died alone in a Sydney jail is demanding answers wants a coronial inquest into the fatality.

Frank ‘Gud’ Coleman, a 43-year-old Ngemba man, was found on Thursday in his cell at Long Bay jail.

Coleman, who was born in Brewarrina in northwest NSW and raised in Mount Druitt in western Sydney, is the ninth Indigenous person to die in an Australian prison since March.

At least 478 Indigenous people have died in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Coleman’s family and the Aboriginal Legal Service are demanding answers after learning he was found unresponsive.

His former partner Skye Hipwell, who is the mother of three of his children, said he was healthy and his death had come as a “complete shock”.

The family’s grief is compounded by the fact they hadn’t seen him for more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions in NSW jails.

“He died alone in a jail cell and no one knows anything about his last minutes,” Ms Hipwell said.

She described him as an outgoing, friendly man who loved his children and was “extremely staunch and proud in his Aboriginality, his culture and community”.

His daughter Lakota Colenman said he had a heart problem but was taking medication.

“We were told from the nurses from Long Bay jail that he was in good health. It actually came as a shock, to be honest,” she told ABC TV on Wednesday.

Coleman’s family want an autopsy and coronial inquest as soon as possible.

Karly Warner, chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service for the NSW and ACT, said it was devastating to be dealing with “yet another” Aboriginal family whose loved one died alone behind bars.

“Life-saving recommendations (from the 1991 commission) remain on the shelf while people like Frank suffer lonely and preventable deaths,” Ms Warner said.

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