On January 2, 2020, Veronica Marie Nelson Walker died in a Victorian prison less than two days after being locked up.
The 37-year-old had been arrested for alleged shoplifting, and the ABC reports she died withdrawing from drugs.
Four months on, her family is still waiting for a definitive cause of death, even though inmates reported hearing her screaming for help.
Veronica loved art, poetry and talking about her Indigenous culture.
She is also one of more than 400 Indigenous Australians who’ve died in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.
We explored this injustice in an episode of The Quicky, Mamamia’s daily news podcast, earlier this year. Post continues after audio.
In that time, close to 30 years, there have been zero convictions as a result of these deaths.
In November last year, Kumanjayi Walker was shot dead by a police officer 300km from Alice Springs.
Constable Zachary Rolfe, 28, has been charged with his murder, and granted bail with his pay suspended. His trial has been adjourned until June 25, 2020, due to COVID-19.
When the young officer was charged there were cheers from protesters across the country. Because like Veronica, Kumanjayi’s death has left his loved ones with so many unanswered questions.
The 19-year-old was shot on his girlfriend’s grandparent’s property, allegedly for breaching conditions of a suspended sentence for break and enter.
It took 10 hours for police to confirm he was dead.
In 2017, Tanya Day died in a police cell after being arrested for public drunkenness.
The 55-year-old was left alone in a cell for four hours, despite repeatedly falling and hitting her head.
She died after suffering catastrophic brain injuries.
A coronial inquest was held last year into whether systematic racism was a factor in the way she was treated by authorities. In April 2020, the coroner referred the case to prosecutors for further investigation stating that "there was the possibility an indictable offence had occurred," the ABC reports.
Tanya, Kumanjayi, and Veronica's stories are just three of hundreds.
To make matters worse, 1991 wasn't even the first royal commission that had been held in regards to Aboriginal deaths in custody.
In 1987, a commission looked back at First Nation deaths in custody over a 10-year period, and gave 330 recommendations, most of which are still valid today.
Very few, however, were ever implemented.
It's the same story for the 339 recommendations that came from the 1991 investigation.
In fact, Aboriginal deaths in custody are only rising.
An analysis by Guardian Australia of Indigenous deaths in custody in the 12 months between August 2018 and August 2019, found the proportion of deaths where "medical care was required but not given" had increased from 35.4 per cent to 38.6 per cent.
It also found Indigenous women were "still less likely to have received all appropriate medical care" prior to their death, and that in cases where an Aboriginal woman had died in custody, authorities were "less likely to have followed all their own procedures".
In April 2020, a coroner ruled that Jonathan Hogan - who died by suicide in prison in February 2018 - received "inadequate treatment" for mental health issues in the months leading up to his death.
Deputy NSW coroner Harriet Grahame saidMr Hogan’s death could not be treated as an “isolated tragedy”.
It's a story that just keeps on repeating itself.
January 26 is one of the most complex dates on the Australian calendar.