Inquest into death of Port Stephens First Nations man displays alleged mistreatment by correctional staff

Bailey Mackander is one of 459 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Indigenous deaths in custody.


AN inquest into the death of a Port Stephens First Nations man who died falling eight metres whilst trying to escape custody has understood that correctional staff treatment contributed to the man’s avoidable death.

NSW Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott heard that Wiradjuri man Bailey Mackander was taken to hospital in November 2019 after reportedly swallowing batteries and razor blades.

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Aged twenty, Bailey had been isolated in a ‘safe’ cell in Kariong Correctional Centre where he was reportedly heard screaming in distress for a number of days before being taken to Gosford Hospital.

Mr Mackander died after escaping custody, climbing over a concrete barrier and falling eight metres.

The inquest into his death heard that that cell he was placed in was deemed unsafe for Bailey as he suffered from anxiety.

Georgia Lewer, lawyer for Mr Mackander’s father and stepmother, addressed the court discussing her disgust with the treatment of a young man suffering with mental illness.

“On numerous occasions, Bailey was dealt with in a contemptuous manner,” she said.

“There was gross disregard for his deteriorating mental state; guards stepped over him and entirely ignored him in the cell.

“His request for dinner is ignored, a request to turn off the TV so he can sleep is ignored.

“This conduct by a number of corrective services staff shows a real lack of humanity in dealing with Bailey and reflects a culture where inmates are seen as less than human and disentitled to dignity,” she said.

This was supported by the closing submission by Bill de Mars, a lawyer for Mr Mackander’s mother.

“The action Bailey took was based on the fear and anxiety of returning to the observation cell based on his previous distress,” Mr de Mars said.

The inquest heard Mr Mackander had anxiety and mental health issues for at least nine weeks prior to his death.

The inquest heard he was meant to have weekly appointments with a psychologist, but that had not occurred.

The lawyer for a treating nurse said in her submission that “there was tremendous pressure placed on her client and she didn’t have specific mental health training”.

Mr Mackander’s family spoke of a kind, loving boy, who sought rehabilitation, despite no treatment places being available.

“The family wish me to emphasise that Bailey was gentle and he was kind.

“He was still very young, with limited life or jail experience, struggling to find his place in the world,” Ms Lewer said.

“[The family] want to acknowledge the loss of a unique individual in a prison system that has failed many, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

“It is a problem that requires wholesale political and community support, and fundamental change.”

Coroner Truscott will hand down her findings on December 15.



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