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Research Guides


Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: The Royal Commission and its Records, 1987–91


1 Individual Case Records

The case files are those related to each case of death examined by the Commission. Each of the ninety-nine cases investigated by the Commission had one or more files created. As the later files show, the Commission eventually interpreted its terms of reference in the widest possible manner by including cases which were not deaths in custody. This is shown, for example, by the Commission including cases such as that of David Gundy in NSW who was killed by accident though he was not in custody.

As the Commission often acted in effect as another board of review the amount of documentation varies from case to case. Some were clear cut and take only a few files, such as when a person with a heart problem had an attack of angina in jail and died, despite prompt and appropriate medical care. Other cases, eg suicides, can have not only thousands of pages of transcripts of investigations by the Commission but also thousands of pages from the original Coroners Report and thousands more of the various files collected by the Commission, such as welfare files, Social Security files, material from doctors and hospitals, detoxification centres etc.

Some material in these files will not be publicly available. For example some of the exhibit files include material such as the autopsy reports. Some autopsy material could include, for example, photographs of the deceased person. This photographic material was suppressed by the Commission in order not to cause distress to the relatives of the deceased. Relatives of some of the deceased also requested that their names not be made publicly available. This was respected by the Commission and is observed in the access policies that now apply to the records.

Records at the National Archives
The Commission's records identified as being case file material or having a close connection with individual cases are:
Transcript folders – individual case hearings A8570
Individual case files deemed to be outside the jurisdiction of the Royal Commission A8571
Individual case files A8574
General exhibits D4079
Case files D4091
Exhibit records D4096
Final case reports D4156
Transcripts of proceedings, all States (copies) D4189
Register – list of cases in the Northern Territory E1167

Some of these series consist of public submissions that have been made previously available and are widely accessible, such as in major public and academic libraries, in printed reports or in Parliamentary collections. Some of the material was released as part of the Individual or Underlying Issues Reports. Other material, such as that associated with individual cases, was not released by the Commission. Requests for access to material that has not yet been released will be subject to the formal access arrangements explained at page 12 - LINK.

The full text of the Individual Death Reports can be found on the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation’s web site at www.austlii.edu.au/au/special/rsjproject/rsjlibrary/rciadic.

Transcript folders – Individual case hearings, alphabetical with state/name prefix 1987–91

This series consists of transcripts of hearings before the Royal Commission in various States, covering all the individual cases heard by the Commission. Individuals and groups with information or evidence related to a death attended the hearings and were questioned or gave oral submissions.

The hearings have a wide scope, and include evidence of individuals imprisoned with the deceased, prison officers, medical attendants and family and friends.

Series: A8570
Quantity: 4.14 metres in Sydney, 1.8 metres in Darwin, 3.42 metres in Brisbane, 1.98 metres in Adelaide, 0.18 metres in Hobart, 0.72 metres in Melbourne, 8.82 metres in Perth
BATES Bobby A8570, 23 WA
BONEY Lloyd A8570, N/BONEY/2
Yuendumu A8570, NT/CASE 1/6
Public access to the records: Those of the documents in this series, or parts of the documents, that were publicly available in the course of the Royal Commission's existence remain publicly available. Any material relating to public hearings to which a Commissioner applied a non-publication order will not be publicly available. When these records reach 30 years of age the Commissioner's non-publication orders will cease to have effect and the provisions of the Archives Act will determine their access status.
INDIVIDUAL CASE FILES DEEMED TO BE OUTSIDE THE JURISDICTION OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION, ALPHABETICAL SERIES WITH STATE/NAME PREFIX 1987–91

This series was raised for individuals whose names were suggested for investigation but who were found not to be covered by the terms of the Commission. There are many reasons for this; individuals may not have died, may not have died in custody or may have died outside the period investigated. In some cases the reasons are provided in detail, and in others there may be only a brief note.

Some of these files also include coroners' reports and police reports into the death and other material collected to determine whether a death will be covered by the Commission's investigations.

Series: A8571
Quantity: 0.27 metres in Brisbane, 0.18 metres in Perth, 0.18 metres Sydney, 0.23 metres in Adelaide, 0.05 metres in Hobart, 0.18 metres in Melbourne
Letter relating to confirmation as to whether Katrina Koko died as a result of being in custody in Ceduna – Geoff Eames 18/12/1987 – South Australian Secretariat A8571, 1
Queensland Secretariat A8571, Ashwell, P
Gentle – correspondence file A8571, W35/3
Public access to the records: None of the material in this series was made public in the course of the Royal Commission's existence. Archives staff will refer access requests to the Access and Administrative Review Section of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for assessment on the basis of the formal access arrangements (see page 12 of the Guide for an explanation of the formal access arrangements).
INDIVIDUAL CASE HEARINGS, ALPHABETICAL SERIES WITH STATE/NAME PREFIX, 1987–91

These case files cover general correspondence relating to each case investigated by the Commission but do not cover the hearings or include a transcript of the hearings. The related hearing and transcript material is found with the other series of case files in series D4091.

This series does not include hearings or research material related to the hearings. It consists of press clippings, general correspondence including correspondence to the family of the deceased and general and administrative matters.

Series: A8574
Quantity: 0.36 metres in Sydney, 0.18 metres in Darwin, 0.36 metres in Brisbane, 0.18 metres in Adelaide, 0.05 metres in Hobart, 0.18 metres in Melbourne, 1.08 metres in Perth
CARR Thomas A8574, N/CARR/1
BOOTH Robin A8574, NT/BOOTH/2
A man who died at Oodnadatta (name suppressed) A8574, S/Name Suppressed/1
Public access to the records: The documents in this series were derived from a wide variety of sources. Some documents may have been used in the course of hearings. Any material to which a Commissioner applied a non-publication order will not be available to researchers.
GENERAL EXHIBITS, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'G' PREFIX OR INFIX, 1987–90

These exhibits vary between those that focus on an individual person to those addressing general issues of economic or social problems. The files appear to occupy an interim position, after the Commission had widened the scope of its inquiries but before a formal policy of determining the underlying issues had been reflected in the recordkeeping system.

While the majority of exhibits relate to general issues a number are submissions directly related to individual cases, which is why the series has been included with the case files.

Series: D4079
Quantity: 3.96 metres in Adelaide, 0.36 metres in Perth
Q5 – Pilot case – Brisbane 28/7/88 – Leestma, J E (MD) and Hughes, JR (MD), 'Sudden epilepsy deaths and the forensic pathologist' D4079, 91
GS/6/2 – The man who died at Oodnadatta (name suppressed) – Submission of the SA Police Department and other documents Part C D4079, 131
Literacy programs for prisoners D4079, G6/W2
Public access to the records: Exhibits and submissions from this series which were made public, for example, read aloud or circulated to the public in the hearing room, in the course of the Royal Commission's existence remain publicly available. At the request of the originator, or on the decision of a Commissioner, certain exhibits were protected by non-publication orders. These are not available. Those exhibits which were not explicitly made available or explicitly withheld are subject to the formal access arrangements (see page 12 - LINK of the Guide for an explanation of the formal access arrangements.)
CASE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH STATE ALPHA PREFIX

This is the major series of case files raised for individuals who died in custody or were investigated by the Commission even though they did not die in custody. As the Commission often acted as another board of review, the amount of documentation varies from case to case. Some are clear cut and take only a few files, such as when somebody with a heart problem had an attack of angina in jail and died, despite prompt and appropriate medical care.

Other cases, such as suicides, can have not only thousands of pages of transcripts of investigations by the Commission but also thousands of pages from the original Coroners Report and thousands more of the various files collected by the Commission. They may include welfare files, Social Security files, material from doctors and hospitals, detoxification centres etc.

Series: D4091
Quantity: 32.4 metres in Sydney), 3.6 metres in Melbourne, 1.26 metres in Hobart, 49.15 metres in Perth, 4.32 metres in Brisbane, 17.46 metres in Adelaide, 16.74 metres in Darwin
David John Gundy – Volume XXVI – Transcript Volume 9 – 6/12/90 to 14/12/90 D4091, N/19/562
WA Case No. 2 – Robert Joseph Walker – Criminal history of witnesses D4091, W2/50
Public access to the records: The documents in this series were derived from a wide variety of sources. Any documents that were publicly available during the course of the Royal Commission's existence remain publicly available. Any material to which a Commissioner applied a non-publication order will not be available to researchers. Those documents which were not explicitly made available or explicitly withheld are subject to the formal access arrangements (see page 12 - LINK of the Guide for an explanation of the formal access arrangements).
EXHIBIT RECORDS, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH VARIABLE ALPHA PREFIX, 1988–90

The majority of exhibits are files of other Federal, State and Territory Departments and authorities. They include community service departments, police and court records, hospital and inquest records, as well as previous police and State inquiry records related to the death.

As well as government records there are records from private organisations such as St John Ambulance and legal aid offices. Some files include physical material from the inquest such as samples of material from clothing and residues from drugs or alcohol testing.

Quantity: 11.16 metres in Adelaide, 1.26 metres in Perth, 0.18 metres in Sydney, 8.65 metres in Brisbane, 9.27 metres in Darwin
South Australian Exhibits – Stanley Gollan: 26/7/89 – General exhibits, Sansbury Association Submission D4096, GS/10/1
Northern Territory Exhibits – Jambajimba (name suppressed) – Alice Springs Police Station exhibit book 009294, 009697 D4096, NT/1/89
West Australia Exhibit record – Catholic Education Office –Aboriginal Teaching Assistants Program D4096, 84/6/E1/R
Public access to the records: Exhibits and submissions from this series which were made public, for example, read aloud or circulated to the public in the hearing room, in the course of the Royal Commission's existence remain publicly available. At the request of the originator, or on the decision of a Commissioner, certain exhibits were protected by non-publication orders. These are not available. Those exhibits which were not explicitly made available or explicitly withheld are subject to the formal access arrangements (see page 12-LINK of the Guide for an explanation of the formal access arrangements.)
FINAL CASE REPORTS, ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1988–90
These are the final reports of the investigations into the ninety-nine cases of Aboriginal deaths in custody investigated by the Commission. The reports are arranged alphabetically except for those where the name has been suppressed. The reports tend to follow a standard format and include synopsis, history, lifestyle, background information, custody events, post-mortem examinations, police investigation reports and coronial inquiry reports. Normally appendices list witnesses, exhibits and reports. The reports vary slightly depending upon the circumstances of the death and which Commissioner was responsible for preparing the report.
Series: D4156
Quantity: 0.54 metres in Adelaide, 0.54 metres in Perth
Report of the Inquiry into the Death of – an Aboriginal man at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (name suppressed) D4156, 1
Report of the Inquiry into the Death of – Wayne John Dooler D4156, 22
Report of the Inquiry into the Death of – Roy Norman Walker D4156, 88
Public access to the records: These records are publicly available.
TRANSCRIPTS OF PROCEEDINGS, ALL STATES (COPIES), SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1988–90
These are duplicate copies of the transcripts of the proceedings of the Commission. There is a complete set available in series A8570 which covers the individual case hearings, series A8568 which covers the special hearings and series A8569 which covers the underlying issues hearings. The copies in series D4189 were kept so as to be able to provide a copy of a transcript to a State institution if this became necessary. For this reason there may not be a complete set of transcripts in this series.
Series: D4189
Quantity: 9.72 metres in Adelaide
Transcripts of proceedings all States: Western Australia –Stanley Brown 3/7/89 to 16/7/89 D4189, 5
Transcripts of proceedings all States: New South Wales – Shane Atkinson 24/7/89 to 2/8/89 D4189, 68
Transcripts of proceedings all States: Queensland – Bernard Johnson 13/11/89 to 25/11/89 D4189, 99
Public access to the records: The documents in this series, or parts of the documents, that were publicly available in the course of the Royal Commission's existence remain publicly available. Any material relating to public hearings to which a Commissioner applied a non-publication order will not be publicly available. When these records reach 30 years of age the Commissioner's non-publication orders will cease to have effect and the provisions of the Archives Act will determine access status.
REGISTER – LIST OF CASES IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY, 1988–90

This is a single item listing all ten cases heard in the Northern Territory. Each is listed under the headings – Name, Age, Date of Case, Location and Cause.

Public access to the records: These records may be made available unless they name a person whose name was suppressed by the Royal Commission.

Series: E1167
Quantity: 0.09 metres in Darwin

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