The family of an Aboriginal woman who died after being taken into custody for public drunkenness has called on Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to abolish the offence, 28 years after a royal commission recommended its repeal.
Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day was picked up by police at Castlemaine in December 2017 while travelling on a V/Line service from Echuca to Melbourne.
The 55-year-old died 17 days later from a head injury she suffered while being held in the Castlemaine police station cells.
Ms Day's family has appealed to Mr Andrews to revoke the law, issuing an open letter with the support of the Human Rights Law Centre and scores of other legal, health and social welfare organisations on the 28th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The recommendation to abolish the offence of public drunkenness was a key recommendation of the royal commission and it now remains a crime only in Victoria and Queensland.
In the letter, Ms Day's children Belinda, Warren, Apryl and Kimberly said their mother - who they described as greatly respected and loving - would still be alive had the state government implemented the recommendation.
"Most Victorians have committed this offence, whether it's coming home from the races, football, or from a party, but not all Victorians are over-policed and over-imprisoned in the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are, and not all Victorians are arrested and locked up like our Mum was," they said.
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service estimates about a quarter of the people arrested for public drunkenness each day are Aboriginal, even though just 0.8 per cent of Victoria's population is Indigenous.
Ms Day's family said drunkenness required not a criminal response but a public health one.
A Victorian government spokesperson told the Bendigo Advertiser it would be inappropriate to comment on an individual matter under investigation by the coroner.
Antoinette Braybrook, the chief executive officer of Aboriginal service Djirra, said it was "shameful" the law had not yet been repealed.
An inquest into Ms Day's death will begin in July, but coroner Caitlin English has already indicated her intention to recommend that the crime of public drunkenness be scrapped.
Ms Day boarded a bus on December 5, 2017 at Echuca before transferring to a train at Bendigo.
CCTV footage showed her reportedly a little unsteady on her feet, and on the train she was unable to produce her ticket.
The inspector reported she became "unruly" and police were called to take a "drunk person from the train" at Castlemaine.
Counsel assisting the coroner Catherine Fitzgerald told a directions hearing last year Ms Day walked off the train unaided and was co-operative.
Police decided to take her into custody for four hours to "sober up".
But it was while in custody that Ms Day likely suffered the head injury, Ms Fitzgerald said, that lead to her death.
Ms Day's uncle, Harrison Day, also died in custody after being arrested in relation to public drunkenness.
He was arrested in Echuca in 1982 for an unpaid $10 fine for the offence and died after an epileptic seizure in the police cell.
His death was examined by the royal commission.
Ms Day's family has also launched a petition addressed to Mr Andrews.
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