The family of Tane Chatfield - the young Indigenous man who died in a Tamworth jail cell two years ago while on trial - will march in the state-wide protest for Black Lives Matter in Sydney next week.
The rally will be held at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday, August 21, at 12.30pm. The Chatfields, and other Indigenous families joining them, hope to stop the high rate of black deaths in custody.
Chatfield's parents Colin and Nioka said they would tell NSW parliamentarians how their son's death has affected their lives; and how they had not got justice yet.
"The reason why we talk up for Black Lives Matter, and us as Aboriginal families that go through the black deaths in custody, is because it takes longer to get justice, and it takes longer to go through the court system," Mrs Chatfield said.
"We fight for our right as humans; we fight for our babies."
147 Indigenous people died in custody across Australia between 2008 and 2018, according to Guardian Australia's "Deaths Inside" database. More than half - including Tane Chatfield - had not been convicted of a crime.
Chatfield, 22, was the fourth Aboriginal person to die in NSW custody in the two years before September 2017, and, NSW Corrective Services stated, the first suicide in their custody since 2010. One more Indigenous man died in NSW custody last year.
Tane Chatfield had been charged with two counts of armed robbery in Armidale and Tamworth. He was on remand at the Tamworth Correctional Centre and elsewhere in NSW for two years before his case was finally heard in Armidale Court on September 19, 2017.
He was returned to Tamworth after the first day's hearing, expecting to be acquitted of the Armidale charges.
Corrective Services NSW told this paper in 2017 that after the first day of trial, Chatfield suffered a seizure, and was rushed to Tamworth Base Hospital. He was returned to his cell on the morning of September 20, and found insensible an hour later. He died in hospital on September 22.
Corrective Services NSW declared Chatfield had hanged himself, and that there were no suspicious circumstances.
Chatfield's family have never accepted that explanation.
"He was killed in custody," Chatfield's partner Merinda Murphy said. "As of today, we still have no answers. We just want to get the answers that we deserve about what happened to him."
Suicide was not in Tane Chatfield's nature, his parents believe; he grew up in a loving Christian family - "the biggest heart; a heart of gold," Ms Murphy remembered - and had no motive for taking his own life.
"They say suicide; we say murder," Mrs Chatfield said. "It's as simple as that, and I'll keep saying murder until they're willing to give me the answers that I need."
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Mrs Chatfield said the family knew that Tane was going to be acquitted; his solicitor Peter Kemp had told him he was likely to be found not guilty.
The young man "to a considerable degree overcame the case against him", Mr Kemp said, delivering the funeral valedictory in Armidale.
"He gave credible and convincing evidence in his defence in his trial that had me nearly in tears of relief, and minded to believe he deserved an acquittal," the solicitor said.
"Yes, Mum and Dad, I'm coming home," Chatfield told his parents. They remembered him giving the 'thumbs-up' sign, smiling, winking, as if he was winning, kicking goals in the courtroom.
"He didn't even make it to the courthouse the next day," his parents said.
An officer, the parents said, told their son: "Well, you're not going home, Chatfield."
"If it was suicide, why did the officer say something like that?" Mrs Chatfield asked. "Why did so many men get out of prison, and tell us a different story? Tell us the same story that we've told ourselves: that it was not suicide?"
Video footage showed that Chatfield's death was not "contributed to by other humans", NSW Corrective Services Commissioner, Peter Severin, told SBS' NITV in October 2017. He had been left alone in an old cell, with hanging points, on his return from hospital, Mr Severin said.
Neither the commissioner nor the correction centre governor, Mrs Chatfield said, were on the premises that day. "[Mr Severin] wouldn't have a clue what he's on about, because he's only getting second-hand news."
Corrective Services NSW first said that Chatfield had been separated from his cellmate that evening on the Director of Public Prosecution's orders. They later acknowledged that the DPP made no such order, and that it was the prison's decision.
That morning, the other inmates were let into the prison yard - giving, Mrs Chatfield said, the officers access to him.
Several inmates, the parents said, later claimed to have heard swearing and screaming shortly before their son was found unconscious - and that Tane's was the last voice screaming, when the noise suddenly stopped.
"If he committed suicide, I don't see why he would be screaming and swearing," Mrs Chatfield said. "A rope doesn't answer you back."
Injuries on his body were inconsistent with hanging or self-harm - but consistent with a physical confrontation, Greens MLC David Shoebridge told the NSW Parliament in October 2017, when demanding an inquiry into the death.
Photographic evidence, he said, showed that Chatfield's shoulders were bruised, his face cut, and the family said they saw blood and skin under the fingernails.
Chatfield's parents, moreover, say he had never had seizures before, and that they were not informed he was sent to hospital.
Chatfield's death was investigated by the Corrective Services Internal Investigations Unit, the police, and Justice Health (Corrective Services health provider).
"They fall back on that to escape justice," Colin Chatfield said. "We don't find that it's fair at all that corrective services investigate corrective service, or police investigate police. Why aren't there any independent investigations?"
The Chatfields will start a petition to ensure police and corrective services cannot investigate themselves - and abolish what they call this "monster's loophole".
"There is no way we are going to stop these black deaths in custody unless we change that law," Mr Chatfield said.
The case remains under investigation by the coroner, but a date for a coronial hearing has yet to be set.
"At the end of the day, our child died for no reason," Mr Chatfield said. "We are suffering on a daily basis."
"We want to be like everybody else that's grieving," Mrs Chatfield said. "We want to accept it, and be able to move on - but we're stuck. I believe that we're still at the front of the courthouse, holding his red shirt, waiting for him to turn up at court."
The Chatfield family ask anyone with information about their son's death or donations (for travelling or accommodation) to fight for Black Lives Matter and black deaths in custody to contact them on 0439 330 867; firstname.lastname@example.org; or through the Justice4Tane Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Justice4Tane-132266514065433/).
Three of Nioka Chatfield's paintings will be auctioned on Armidale Buy, Swap, and Sell until Sunday, August 18 to raise funds. Later this year, the Chatfields will meet federal politicians in Canberra.
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