Ward 6a - Standard Operating Procedures


Standard Operating Procedures: Institutionalised Racism

‘If the legislation had been complied with the deceased would not have been transported by GSL staff on 27 January 2008 and other arrangements would have had to have been made; he would not have died when he died.’
Alastair Hope (State Coroner)

In a process riddled with legal and procedural irregularities that lasted under 10 minutes, Mr Ward was condemned to go to his death in the rear pod of a van already known to be unsuitable. The catalogue of failures and breaches that mark Mr Ward’s death include:

• Failure to comply with the most basic requirements of the Bail Act

• Holding of a court session on Sunday, in direct contravention of a prohibition of such proceedings

• Failure to contact Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS)

• The illegal court session was conducted by a Justice of the Peace (JP) who proved to be ludicrously uninformed as to his duties

• The hearing took place at the entrance to Mr Ward’s cell only minutes after Mr Ward was roused from sleep and when he ‘still appeared heavily affected by alcohol’ (Thompson 1054)


Daisy Ward stands side-on, in front of an Aboriginal flag at the Fremantle prison. Her hand is held up while a woman paints the word 'racism' on her palm.

[imagecaption] Daisy Ward, Fremantle Prison, 2009. Photo: Desire Mallet. [/imagecaption]

From the moment of his arrest until his entry into the van the Laverton police and prison officials failed to follow basic guidelines and also failed to comply with the regulations for Aboriginal prisoners recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) almost three decades previously.

The catalogue of breaches, irregularities and failures that contributed to Mr Ward’s death emerges, in fact, as constitutive of the standard operating procedures  of the settler state in its management of Indigenous people held in its custody.

Characteristically, these only ever come to official light after the fact of an Indigenous death in custody, in such official reports as a coronial inquiry. Yet, while these breaches, failures and irregularities are part of the infrastructure of the state’s racialised policing and carceral operations, they are rarely ever addressed in terms of structural change, only as isolated breaches. The egregious failure by state bodies to implement the RCIADIC’s recommendations evidences the distinction between recognising structural factors and pinpointing individual infractions.




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All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.