Following the 2019 inquest into the death in custody of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day in Castlemaine, the central Victorian town has been named as one of four locations for new sobering up facilities.
In a move announced by the Victorian Government last week, the Castlemaine facility will join the City of Yarra, the City of Greater Dandenong and the City of Greater Shepparton as trial facilities ahead of the repeal of Victoria's public drunkenness laws in November 2022.
Ms Day died after sustaining a serious head injury in a Castlemaine police cell on December 22, 2017.
She was arrested after being kicked off a V/Line train from Echuca to Melbourne under public drunkenness laws.
The 2019 inquest into Ms Day's death found "there was an opportunity lost for Ms Day's survival," and "there was potentially an omission to obtain timely, appropriate medical care which impacted on her death".
The inquest recommended that public drunkenness laws be repealed and in August 2019 - 30 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended it - the Victorian Government announced the legislation would be repealed and replaced with a public health response.
Dja Dja Wurrung elder and men's co-ordinator at Nalderun - an Aboriginal community services centre in Castlemaine - said health responses as opposed to justice responses were essential to the community.
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"We think it's amazing," he said.
"Many years ago we did have a community justice panel.
"When an Aboriginal person was locked up, particularly for alcohol-type offences, they would contact the justice panel and they would go and see if there was family they could take the person to rather than be locked in the cell to sober up.
"But that project stopped because it lost funding."
There have been 489 Indigenous deaths in custody since the Royal Commission in 1987.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate almost doubled between 2010 and 2020, from 971.8 to 1848 per 100,000 adults.
Tanya Day's death in 2017 sparked a nationwide call to repeal public drunkenness laws and to investigate policing practices.
Mr Nelson says that limiting the contact Aboriginal people have with the justice system in Castlemaine would undoubtedly avoid further deaths in custody.
"Getting Aboriginal people out of the cell - we think it's a real bonus to the community," Mr Nelson said.
"For something like this to come up is really exciting and inspiring for the Aboriginal community."
In a statement, the Day family said they also welcomed the move.
"The trial sites are an opportunity to test the long-overdue public health response to public drunkenness," they said.
"For these reforms to work, there must be a full transition away from the current criminal law approach to a genuine and best practice public health one that does not involve police."
The trial facilities will be up and running in the coming months, in collaboration with local community health and Aboriginal support services.
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