Coronial Inquest into death of Veronica Marie Nelson to examine healthcare in Victorian prisons and bail laws

Today the Coroner postponed the date of the Inquest into the death of Veronica Marie Nelson. The Inquest will now commence on 26 April 2022. The Coroner also provided the parties a further opportunity to make submissions regarding expert evidence and outstanding requests for evidence.

Veronica Marie Nelson was a strong Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman. She was connected to her culture and close to her family and community. She was 37 years old when she died at Dame Phillis Frost Centre in Victoria, only 3 days after being arrested and refused bail for shoplifting-related offences. During her final night in prison, she was distressed and cried out for medical assistance a number of times. She died alone in her prison cell.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service’s Wirraway team is representing Percy Lovett, Veronica Nelson’s partner of 22 years, in the Coronial Inquest into her death.

VALS believes that the Inquest will shine a light on serious deficiencies in the quality of care in Victorian prisons and the human cost of the current bail laws, which have disproportionately impacted on Aboriginal people, jeopardising their health, wellbeing and safety.

These laws, and the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test, have had a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal women and have seen more and more Aboriginal women like Veronica remanded to jail for minor offences.

In Victoria, Aboriginal women make up 13% of the prison population, but only account for 1% of the general population.

Story source: Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

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