Leetona Dungay to go to United Nations for David Dungay Jnr

Leetona Dungay, mother of David Dungay Jr., has announced that she is going to take her advocacy to the United Nations (UN) to seek to hold the Australian Commonwealth and the NSW Government to account for their failure to protect the right to life of David Dungay Jr. and for their failure to take action to stop First Nations deaths in custody. 

In her first action, Leetona Dungay will be making a complaint to the UN about the failure to protect David Dungay’s right to life and right to an effective remedy, the systemic failures of successive Australian governments and institutions to implement the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), the systemic failures of the legal system to allow families of victims to secure accountability and justice, and the violations of international human rights law that have produced the worsening crisis of First Nations deaths in custody. 

In her complaint, Leetona Dungay has requested that the UN Human Rights Committee take the following actions:

  • To declare that a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has occurred by virtue of David’s death, which could have been prevented, and by the Australian state’s failure to undertake investigations into anyone or any organisation responsible for David’s death.
  • To find that the Australian state and its institutions should investigate, and if sufficient evidence exists, to prosecute, try and, where appropriate, punish anyone or any organisation responsible for First Nations deaths in custody to put an end to the ongoing impunity for deaths in custody to ensure that Australia complies with its international human rights obligations under the right to life.
  • To recommend that the Australian state provide appropriate measures of satisfaction to the Dungay family.

Leetona will also be seeking to raise David’s case and the issue of deaths in custody before the Human Rights Council and with UN experts.

Announcing the complaint, Leetona Dungay has said:

“My son had a right to live. He had the right to be safe from harm. And I have the right to demand accountability and justice for what happened to David. The government and the prison had a duty of care to keep David safe, with people who were trained properly to keep him alive. The system failed, and David lost his life because of that failure.”

“Governments have a responsibility to hold people and organisations accountable when there is a death in custody. But still no one here and no organisation has been investigated by the DPP or even SafeWork NSW about my son’s death. That’s why we need to go to the international stage to seek justice – to shame our government into action, to expose systemic racism that runs throughout the justice system.”

“I want the world to know that Australia is failing to protect the rights of Indigenous people. I want everybody to know that in this country, since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody thirty years ago, police and prisons are being let off the hook for their brutality. So many Indigenous people have died in custody, but not one police officer or prison guard has been held accountable or faced consequences.”

“The UN needs to know that there is a crisis in this country, and that Australia is breaching its commitments to the UN to protect the human rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their race. I want the UN to tell the Australian government to change its ways. I want the UN to say loud and clear to our racist governments that Black Lives Matter.”

Leetona Dungay has prepared her complaint to the UN with the support of internationally renowned human rights lawyers Geoffrey Robertson AO, QC and Jennifer Robinson (Doughty Street Chambers), legal academic Larissa Behrendt AO FASSA (Director, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research), Barrister and senior researcher Craig Longman (Deputy Director, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research), and human rights lawyer George Newhouse (CEO and Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project).

Jennifer Robinson(Doughty Street Chambers), has said:

“Today we acknowledge the enormous strength, courage and determination that Leetona Dungay has shown in her tireless fight for accountability and justice for her son David Dungay Jr.”

“We are committed to supporting Leetona to take her advocacy to the United Nations. The Australian government has obligations under international law to protect the right to life and to prevent deaths in custody. Yet, Australia has failed to implement recommendations from both the Royal Commission and UN bodies to prevent deaths in custody. As a result, thirty years on from the Royal Commission, the rate of of First Nations deaths in custody remains unacceptably high, with at least five deaths already in 2021. This has to change”.

Larissa Behrendt, (Director, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research), has said:

“We hope that this complaint will shine a global spotlight on the incarceration crisis facing First Nations people in Australia. We know that there are at least 473 other First Nations families who have not been able to secure justice for the death of a loved one since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.”

“This complaint sends a clear message to Australian governments and institutions that the cycle of impunity, inaction and deaths must end. The international community must stand with Leetona Dungay and all families of victims when they say to the Australian government: Black Lives Matter.”

George Newhouse, (CEO and Principal Solicitor, National Justice Project), has said:

“Leetona Dungay should not have to go all the way to Geneva to seek justice for the death of her son, but unfortunately the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman and Premier Gladys Berejiklian have left her no other choice. This government has repeatedly refused to take steps to get the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and SafeWork NSW to investigate the death.”

“But the NSW Government can still take action. The Attorney General and the Premier must establish an investigation, and they must listen to the 113,000 people who have signed the petition calling for justice and accountability. There must be a pathway for families of those who have died in custody to seek accountability.”