Commencement of Veronica Nelson Coronial Inquest – VACCHO Response 

Apr 27, 2022

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and its members would like to extend their deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the late Veronica Nelson after a deeply distressing first day of the of the Coronial inquest into her death while on remand in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

Veronica’s family described her as a “beacon of light” and a “pillar of strength” while elaborating upon her infectious nature, personality, intelligence, and strength of character. Veronica was known for her nurturing and caring nature with her siblings, nieces and nephews, and was described as a “rock and touchstone” and “glue” that held everyone together.

VACCHO were deeply disturbed to hear the audio recording of Veronica’s multiple calls for help whilst experiencing great pain and suffering – even desperately requesting assistance from her late father.

The grief and loss caused by tragic and unnecessary deaths in custody contributes to the generational trauma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities here in Victoria.

VACCHO calls upon the Victorian Government to utilise the Community controlled health sector as the primary provider to deliver health care to vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria to ensure another preventable death is mitigated.

Governments need to recognise that the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations within the Community controlled health sector are the services best placed to provide culturally safe healthcare to Community.

VACCHO calls on decision makers to be bold and act with integrity and urgency to mitigate yet another preventable death in custody of a vulnerable Aboriginal person while on remand in custody.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher says the opening of the inquest was harrowing and heartbreaking.

“VACCHO and our 32 members pass on our deepest sympathies to the family of Veronica Nelson. They have shown immeasurable strength throughout this devastating process.”

“I did have the privilege of meeting Veronica Nelson on many occasions. From the first time I met Veronica it became immediately apparent she was extremely personable, kind, and a very gentle soul.”

“It is over thirty years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. However once again another Aboriginal family are left to deal with the consequences of a system that continues to grossly fail our Community.”

“Much needed reform and systemic changes are urgently needed to put an end to the completely unnecessary loss of life that continues to devastate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria.”

“At the heart of this change we need to see real care – culturally safe care – because a lack of such care can create a culturally unsafe environment, which exposes vulnerable Aboriginal people to becoming a victim of a preventable, avoidable and unnecessary loss of life.”

The Coronial inquest into the death of Veronica Nelson will continue over the next five weeks.

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Media enquiries

For further media enquiries please email communications@vaccho.org.au or contact our media unit on (03) 9411 9411.

Background 

VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.