Lawyers for the family of a Yorta Yorta woman who died in a police station cell are asking for a coroner to consider whether systemic racism played a part in her death.
Tanya Day, who was 55, was arrested on a train for public drunkenness when she was travelling from Echuca to Melbourne to visit her daughter.
Lawyer Fiona McLeod, SC, who is representing Ms Day's family and the Human Rights Legal Service, asked coroner Caitlin English on Tuesday to consider the role systemic racism may have played in the mother's death.
Systemic racism is not limited to blatant or intentional racism, but may also be manifested in policies or laws in different organisations, and could include unconscious bias, Ms McLeod said.
After Ms Day was arrested and taken to Castlemaine police station in central Victoria, no one entered her cell for about four hours, her family says. They say CCTV shows Ms Day hit her head in the cell on five occasions.
When the first physical check was done at 8pm, police noticed a dark, oval-shaped bruise on her forehead. Ms Day was taken to Bendigo Hospital, where it was established she had suffered a large bleed to the brain. She later died at St Vincent's Hospital.
"Mum was alone. They didn't properly check on her. Mum fell and hit her head, causing a major bleed in her brain," Ms Day's daughter, Belinda Stevens, said outside the court.
"For hours she lay on the concrete floor of that police cell. Mum was 55 years old when she died. She had so much more to give."
The offence of public drunkenness should be abolished, said Ruth Barson, the director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.
"Our laws currently criminalise behaviours for some people that is completely overlooked for others," Ms Barson said outside the court.
"People don't die in custody coming home from the Melbourne Cup, or from a hens' night."
The coroner should consider the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the judicial system, including the circumstances of the death of Ms Dhu in Western Australia, Ms McLeod said.
Ms Dhu was a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman who died in police custody in Western Australia in 2014. A coronial inquest found that she had suffered "unprofessional and inhumane" handling by police and "deficient" treatment from hospital staff.
Ms English said she would respond to the request to consider systemic racism at the next directions hearing in April.
Rachel Ellyard, acting for Victoria Police, told the court there was no proper basis in the matter to examine systemic racism in the police force.
It is the second time Ms Day's family has suffered the trauma of a death in custody.
Ms Day's uncle, Harrison Day, a skilled drover and horseman, died in custody in 1982 from an epileptic seizure in a police cell at Echuca, after he was arrested for an unpaid $10 fine for public drunkenness.
His death was examined by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which recommended 30 years ago that the offence of public drunkenness be abolished.
In December last year, at the start of the inquest into Ms Day's death, Ms English said she would be making a recommendation to Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to abolish the offence of public drunkenness. The government is yet to respond.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.