Monday, August 2, 2010

Compensation payment made to Ward family

The family of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, who died in the back of a prison transfer van in January 2008, will receive $3.2 million from the WA government. It is in addition to the $200,000 interim payment previously given to the Ward family.

The payment comes in the wake of escalating protests organised by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) in support of the family. The most recent rally was a large march through the city on July 11 in the wake of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) decision not to lay any charges in this case.

The payment represents a significant victory for the campaign, which has demanded compensation, termination of the contract with private operator G4S, which operated the van, and that charges be laid against those responsible for the death.

DICWC chairperson Marc Newhouse told the ABC that the payment is welcome but that the committee will continue to push for criminal charges to be laid and for the termination of the contract.

The contract can and should be terminated, he said.

WA Greens MP Alison Xamon told Green Left Weekly: “I’m glad the payment wasn’t any lower because there needed to be a significant payout to reflect the seriousness of what happened.”
But she said, “there is still concern about the amount -- some people think it should have been greater. Of greater concern is that Mr Ward’s birth family have been sidelined in this process. Culturally that is inappropriate.”

Alex Bainbridge, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the federal election in the seat of Perth, told GLW that it is good that a significant compensation payment has been made.

But he said: “We must not forget that this payment has come more than two years after the elder’s death and that the government still hasn’t terminated the G4S contract. No doubt the government is hoping that the timing of this announcement will deflect anger away from the DPP for not laying charges in this case, the underlying causes haven’t been addressed.

“Most importantly, the G4S contract has to be terminated immediately.”

Xamon said that the contract “should be cancelled and should be cancelled now”.

“In fact, we should cancel privatisation of custodial services full stop”, she said.

[This article by Jacqui Clee was first published in Green Left Weekly. Photo by Alex Bainbridge from July 11 rally for Mr Ward.]