Public drunkenness will be decriminalised in Victoria on the eve of a coronial inquest into the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who died in police custody in Castlemaine in December, 2017.
The Attorney-General will write to the Coroner, in relation to the inquest into the death of Ms Day, to advise that the state government will commit, in principle, to decriminalising public drunkenness.
Ms Day's family welcomed the news but said it was tinged with grief and sadness.
"In the end it took the death of our mother for the Government to repeal laws that should have been abolished 30 years ago when the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody were released," the Day Family said in a statement.
"The government's commitment is a great first step, but they need to back their words with action and repeal the law quickly so that no other Aboriginal person dies in custody."
Ms Day was arrested for being drunk in a public place while riding on a train from Bendigo to Melbourne.
She fell and hit her head in police custody and later died from a brain haemorrhage.
The coronial inquest into Tanya Day's death in police custody is due to begin on Monday, August 26.
"There's still a long journey ahead in seeking justice for our mum," The Day Family said.
"We're still waiting on the truth of what happened to be revealed through the coronial process and from that, accountability.
"At the time mum died, Aboriginal women were around 11 times more likely to be arrested. This raises serious questions about racism in Victoria Police."
Human Rights Law Centre legal director Ruth Barson, who is representing the family in the coronial inquest, said the announcement was welcome and a testament to the ongoing commitment of Ms Day's family in seeking justice for their mother.
"We're now looking to the coronial inquest for answers on how Tanya Day went from safely sleeping on a train to dying in police custody, and who should be held responsible for her tragic death," Ms Barson said.
Abolishing public drunkenness as a crime was a major recommendation that came from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody almost 30 years ago.
Since Ms Day's death, her family has been campaign for the crime of public drunkenness to be abolished and for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.
"Since Tanya Day's death in 2017, her family has been committed to law reform and better support services," Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gavin Jennings said.
"The courage and determination they have shown to prevent other families from experiencing their pain has been remarkable and truly inspiring."
As well as abolishing public drunkenness as a crime, the state government will establish the Expert Reference Group to consult with Aboriginal communities, health services, alcohol and other drug experts, local governments and operators of licensed premises.
"The government is doing the right thing repealing these discriminatory laws and putting in place an Aboriginal-led, public health response," Ms Barson said.
"If somebody is too drunk, they should be taken home or somewhere safe, they should not be behind bars."
Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive Raylene Harradine said the decision is a good move.
"It's been very traumatising not just for our communities but for her family. This will hopefully, moving forward, be able to see better system introduced into ways of dealing with these situations in the future," she said.
"We've seen a lot of our community die in custody. With the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (decriminalising public drunkenness) was one of the key reports and recommendations that came down, so welcome changes to legislation in that regard.
The health-based response will promote culturally-safe ways to assist alcohol-affected people in public places.
"Public drunkenness requires a public health response, not a criminal justice one, and now is the right time to take this important reform forward," Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said.
"The (state) government acknowledges the disproportionate impact the current laws have had on Aboriginal people and pay tribute to the community members who have advocated for this change."
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