Indigenous teenager dies in Australian custody after ‘incident’, investigation launched

A 16-year-old Aboriginal boy has died a week after he was found “unresponsive” in youth detention in Australia’s west, authorities said on Friday.

The boy, identified in Australian media as Indigenous, died in a Perth hospital on Thursday night after an “incident” in a city detention centre a week earlier, the Western Australian state government’s justice department said.

“He had been found unresponsive in his cell by staff in the early hours of 12 October and provided emergency first aid until paramedics arrived,” it said in a statement.

The department said it was investigating “all circumstances of the incident”.

The inequalities facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia remain stark, more than 230 years since European colonisation.

Indigenous peoples, whose ancestors have lived on the continent for more than 60,000 years, are far more likely to be incarcerated or die in custody than other Australians and have lifespans about eight years shorter than the rest of the population.

The teenage boy’s death was the first of a person in youth custody in Western Australia since current record-keeping began in 1980, the justice department said.

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Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission said it had opened an investigation after receiving an allegation of serious misconduct related to “an incident” at the detention facility, located within the grounds of Casuarina Prison.

The commission said it did not have the power to inquire into the broader issue of young people in the criminal justice system.

“Our jurisdiction is focused on the alleged conduct of public officers where that conduct meets the high bar of serious misconduct,” said Commissioner John McKechnie, who leads the body.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the death as a “terrible tragedy” and offered his condolences to the boy’s family.

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