Warning: The article contains an image and the name of an Indigenous man who has died and also contains sensitive information that may be confronting.
As protests continue in the United States over the death of George Floyd, locally, Australians are rallying together to highlight injustices faced by Indigenous Australians.
On Saturday, June 6, a number of peaceful marches have been organised around the country — including one at Civil Park in Newcastle.
This particular protest has been organised to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families impacted by deaths in custody and police brutality in Australia, as well as in solidarity with the US and around the world.
There’s one story that this march will also highlight, and it is eerily similar to Floyd’s fate at the hands of law enforcement.
David Dungay Junior
David Dungay Junior was born in Kempsey at Old Burnt Bridge Reserve and was the youngest son to Leetona Dungay and David Hill. David had seven half-siblings, as well as a younger sister, Cynthia.
Described by his mother as “happy-go-lucky, kind and loving” and a “proud Dunghutti warrior”, Dungay was said to enjoy sports and had a talent for poetry.
According to the NSW Coroner’s report, after leaving high school, he began coming under the notice of the local police in Kempsey.
Dungay was charged with a serious robbery offence relating to a home invasion that occurred in 2007, charged with an aggravated attempted sexual assault offence in relation to an incident in 2008 and he was also charged with an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in relation to an incident in the same year.
On January 22, 2008, Dungay was received into custody and received an overall sentence of nine years and six months with a non-parole period of five years and six months, after an appeal.
During his initial time in custody, his history of alcohol and cannabis abuse emerged in “antisocial behaviour” which manifested itself into behavioural issues, followed by psychosis and then schizophrenia.
It was during his stay at Sydney’s Long Bay Correctional Complex, where he was housed as an involuntary patient inmate, the 26-year-old was looking forward to being considered for parole on February 2, 2016.
However, on December 29, 2015, just weeks before the hearing, Dungay died under the force of five officers.
According to the NSW Coroner’s report, Dungay had diabetes and was insulin-dependent. On the day of his death, he retrieved rice crackers and biscuits from his belongings and returned to his cell to eat them. Nursing and correctional staff, requested he return them due to elevated blood sugar levels earlier that day, however, he refused becoming “very aggressive and abusive”.
His refusal resulted in being forcibly moved by officers from his cell to a camera-monitored cell for observation, however, it was during the transfer process, that things went south.
Filmed on a camera — in line with prison policy — an increasingly agitated Dungay was restrained on the bed of his cell and held down in a “prone position” by five Correctional Services officers, before being sedated by a nurse with an injection of midazolam into his right buttock.
Facedown, Dungay was reportedly heard repeatedly screaming: “I can’t breathe”.
The officers stayed on top of Dungay for a matter of minutes, until he became unresponsive. Prison staff then administered CPR, while paramedics were called, who then continued the process, however, their efforts were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead — all within 10 minutes.
In 2019, following a Coronial inquest, NSW Deputy Coroner Derek Lee determined Dungay had died of cardiac arrhythmia, and that “the use of force and restraint” led to his death.
At the time, he also determined the officers should not be held accountable.
Rather than place blame, he said that the guards did not have malicious intent, rather “deficiencies in training” and a “misunderstanding of information that was conveyed at the time”.
No charges have been laid since.
In a GoFundMe page titled Justice for David Dungay Junior, his mother said she was “determined to see justice” for her son.
“Over the last three years, we have been to two sessions of the Coronial Inquest, dozens of marches, and countless legal consultations. Since David died in Sydney, a long way from his home in Kempsey, most of these events have been in Sydney. Constantly travelling has made finding work difficult, and the legal and travel costs have been piling up. I have a big family here in Kempsey, and it is important that as many of us as possible come to the Inquest sessions to spread our message, but it does get very expensive when 30 people are involved,” she wrote.
So far, the GoFundMe has raised $346,975 with 4,984 people who had donated at the time of our research.
“I need help to continue my fight for David’s justice. Please donate to help us show the government that David is not just a statistic; that he was loved, and that he did not deserve to die in prison and to help our family recover from the shock of David’s death,” she wrote.
To support Leetona Dungay GoFundMe page, visit: GoFundMe/Justice for David