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"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948.
Glimpsed through the bars at Maribyrnong Maribyrnong Detention Centre - greetings card Cartoon of Maribyrnong IDC

The greetings card pictured above shows Maribyrnong Detention Centre west of Melbourne, Australia, with its newly constructed (November 2001) outer fence and razor wire. People in the community have been sending this card to politicians and others, with a suitable message inside, on behalf of the detainees. Please feel free also to download, print and copy it if you wish.(Please click on the image for a larger version.) In December 2001 several detainees at the centre wrote messages to the Australian people on copies of this card; you can see scanned copies of these cards by clicking   here.

Next to the Greetings Card is a cartoon of Maribyrnong Detention Centre drawn last year by a young detainee and published here with his approval. It speaks for itself.

The photo on the left is one of five posted to Melbourne Indymedia on 31 March 2002 by 'Louis'. If he or someone who knows him sees this, it would be good to hear from them - email address below. In the meantime, I trust he will not object to this use of his photo without permission...


Material relating to the death of Viliami Tanginoa, Friday 22 December 2000

Posted to [email protected] on Friday 28 November, following the Coroner's delivery of his findings:

The first part of the Coroner's report consists of a review of Mr Tanginoa's case history up to the day of his death, with an account of legal preliminaries to the inquest and summary of the evidence, including the expert testimony of Professor Mullen and Mr. Garry Thomson. Having reviewed the evidence of Peter Smits (of DIMA)he concluded:

"For the foregoing reasons it cannot, in my opinion be reasonably contended DIMIA, or any of its operatives caused Mr. Tanginoa's death. (He does, however, make two rather pointed recommendations: that it would be "appropriate" for the senior DIMIA offiver to be trained in self harm/suicide risk assessment, and that DIMIA shoould ensure that a properly trained person whold make a further risk assessment of a detainee who has been served with a removal notice...)

However, anyone who attended the hearings with any sense of justice in mind will be glad to hear that he went out of his way to entirely exonerate Kerry Merriman:

"Ms. Merriman, the DIMIA case management officer for Mr Tanginoa has been criticised in several quarters for her failure to intervene and endeavour to persuade Mr. Tanginoa to descend the pole. It was purely co-incidental Ms. Merriman was at the Detention Centre on the 22 December ... It is to be noted Ms Merriman had a conversation with "Rocky" ( a friend of Mr. Tanginoa) and he made no reference to Mr. Tangioa wishing to speak to Ms. Merriman. In my opinion, no act or omission by Ms. Merriman caused, or was one of the causes of his death. In fact, no adverse finding or comment is warranted against Ms. Merriman. "

The Coroner then went on to the question of whether Mr Tanginoa's death was the intended outcome of his decision to jump - in other words, whether it was suicide, or whether he had intended to injure himself with a view to ensuring his remaining in Australia. And as he foreshadowed on the final day of the hearing in July, his formal finding was that he was not "comfortably satisfied Mr. Tanginoa intended to take his own life: the other inference is equally open."

He then reviewed what was done on the day - the "passive negotiation" or "wait and see" approach adoptd by ACM, concluding as follows:

"I do not see any strategic, informed, active, structured management plan... In fact what I see is a haphazard, unmethodical, wholly inadequate approach. That in my considered view was a clear deficiency in performance. If one action epitomises the ineptitude of the approach adopted by ACM it is the action of David Randich, Operations Manager (not an underling), bouncing a basketball in the courtyard in the vicinity of Mr. Tanginoa - at best unhelpful and amateurish. Progressively from approxinately 10.30 A.M. onwards it should have become clear a crisis existed and self harm was entirely likely; yet no assistance was sought.

"The most critical (and difficult) decision I have to make in this case goes to the issue of whether the deficiency in care and management I have found, a breach of a duty of care, can properly be said to be one of the several causes of Mr. Tanginoa's death. ...

"To find omissions by ACM and its staff have been a cause of death I would need to be comfortably satisfied Mr.Tanginoa would not have taken the decision, in any event, to leap to his death. In other words if negotiators had been engaged would they have succeeded? If the statistics quoted Mr. Thomson as to the "success rate" (if I may call it that) are able to be reasonably extrapolated to the situation here it would be a brave call to suggest negotiation would have failed. If the expert negotiators had been involved I am satisfied the tragic event would have been prevented.

"Whilst the immediate cause of Mr.Tanginoa's death was his own action in taking the decision, for whatever reason, to plunge headlong to the ground from atop the basketball stanchion, another cause was the inaction of centre management; a failure to manage."

The Coroner ended the main body of his report by contrasting his own findings with an extract from the internal review carried out by ACM(The Lingard Report):

"In light of the above information, the staff and Management of the Maribyrnong IDC appear to have domne all they could to prevent the death of the deceased. However, had the local DIMA Business Manager and the DIMA Case Manager of the deceased been more flexible and agreed to talk or provide the deceased with some form of written note explaining the situation, the outcome, whereby the deceased took his own life may have been avoided."

No comment...

Note: on Friday 21 December 2001, the first anniversary of Viliami's death, a protest rally was held in Melbourne outside the GPO. The protest was reported by Farah Farouque in The Age the following day.

Further note - An inquest into the death of Mr Tanginoa was held in the first part of 2003, starting in January. Here are some comments on this inquest which appeared on the MDC-watch elist and reports in mainstream media. Notes on the final three-day hearing in July can be read here.

Posted 21 January 2003

Here is The Age's brief account of the first day of the inquest - the report in The Australian is similar, but adds 'The inquest heard case management notes gave no indication Tanginoa would resist deportation, with the officer in charge of his removal from Australia “surprised” that there was a problem.
'Psychiatric nurse Josephine Ayad described Tanginoa as “friendly, very polite and always smiling” during a visit to a doctor the day before his death.
'Denying allegations raised by the centre's detainees at the time of the incident, Ms Ayad said Tanginoa was not taunted by Australiasian Correctional Management staff during the stand-off”.
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/01/20/1042911328120.html

Inquest probes detainee's fall
January 21 2003
By Olivia Hill-Douglas

A 52-year-old Tongan man, who died after falling from the top of a basketball ring at Melbourne's Maribyrnong Detention Centre on the day he was to be deported from Australia, had told a fellow detainee that he would not go back to Tonga, an inquest heard yesterday.
Coroner Phil Byrne is investigating whether Viliami Tanginoa fell or jumped from the basketball ring on December 22, 2000. Mr Tanginoa, who had been in detention for four months before his death, had been working in Australia illegally for 17 years.
The inquest was shown a video of Mr Tanginoa, who had mounted the pole in the men's recreation yard in protest over his scheduled deportation and stayed there for eight hours.
Detention officer Carol Rossi, who filmed part of the incident, had not been filming when Mr Tanginoa came off the pole. There was no footage of the fall.
The video showed Mr Tanginoa sitting and sometimes standing on the backboard of the basketball hoop, occasionally waving his arms around.
Detention officers can be seen placing mattresses on the ground around the pole, and various people - it is not clear whether they are officers or fellow detainees - remonstrate with Mr Tanginoa.
A former Maribyrnong detainee, Aziz Noori, told the inquest that four days before the incident Mr Tanginoa had said he wasn't ready to go back to Tonga.
“He said that this Friday they are going to deport him but (he is) not going to sign any paper or not going to go,” Mr Noori told the inquest. Mr Noori said that he had seen Mr Tanginoa give him a “thumbs-up” sign from the basketball ring but did not see Mr Tanginoa fall.
Mr Tanginoa was required to sign a form to say that he had received notification of his deportation and when he was due to fly out of Australia.
An officer of the Department of Immigration, John Italiano, told the inquest that he had faxed the deportation notice through to Maribyrnong but could not remember whether it had been signed. Mr Italiano said he had gone to Maribyrnong on other business, and while he was there had told Mr Tanginoa that his deportation was cancelled, in the hope that he would climb down.
Statements have been taken from nine detainees and former detainees.
The inquest is continuing


Posted 21 January 2003

PLEASE COME TO CORONERS COURT IF ABLE EVEN FOR A FEW HOURS.
Case starts at 10am until 4pm each day till Friday.

First day-terrible disappointment as Brimbank Legal Centre representing the Public interest refused right to appear. There is a phalanx of lawyers representing ACM, DIMIA, A Case Officer and the Nurse. While it is usual that the victim may not be represented - most victims don't have a global company and the government represented with high-powered lawyers to ensure that they come out of this smelling like roses.
Brimbank's expertise in Coroners Court Inquiries into Deaths in detention would have opened up the information. One witness gave evidence that she did not see any guards playing basketball, shooting baskets or shaking the pole -totally unsolicited - No-one asked why she said that - pity when we know from witnesses that that is exactly what happened during the time Viliami sat on the basketball ring. No-one talked about the number of witnesses who have been deported. No-one talked about the witnesses who were carted off to the lock-up and then kept in Port Phillip Prison without ever being charged. So far no questions have arisen about how it is possible that a man is allowed to sit on a basketball pole in an agitated state from 8am until 4am without a psychologist or friend or mediator attempting to talk to him.
It is early days. We can only hope that some truths are revealed despite the attempts to ensure that Viliami's death causes as little discomfort as possible to DIMIA and ACM.
Let's hope that some justice is done and that recommendations are made to ensure that the events of this terrible day are not repeated.

DAY TWO

A tale of how no-one took responsibility for Viliami, a tale of duck-shoving responsibility.
When a number of activists climbed on the MIDC roof a negotiator was called in and a cherry-picker employed to ensure their safe removal from the roof. When Viliami climbed up on to a basketball ring - nothing. He sat there for 8 hours - no negotiator, no cherry-picker, no nothing.
Astounding to hear 5 ACM guards' version of events. Even more so to hear a certain guard use words such as “Comfort” and “calm” in relation to detainees, interspersed with a tissue dabbing scene. An academy award performance.


Tongan detainee 'dived to his death'
January 22 2003

A Tongan detainee reluctant to leave Australia, deliberately dived head-first to his death from the top of a basketball pole, an inquest in Melbourne heard yesterday.

Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre officer Geoffrey Parkes said he was convinced Viliami Tanginoa, 53, intended to take his own life when he stood up after eight hours on the pole and executed a “swimming dive” to the concrete below.
“I've got a vivid picture of him flying through the air head first,” he said.
Four months earlier, Mr Tanginoa was put in detention for overstaying a three-month tourist visa by 17 years.
He arrived in Australia in 1983 and applied for a refugee visa 11 years later. This was refused and subsequent appeals rejected.
Coroner Phillip Byrne is investigating whether Mr Tanginoa fell or deliberately jumped from the pole on December 22, 2000, the day he was to be deported.
The inquest is also hearing evidence on the way detention centre staff and immigration officials managed the situation.
Mr Tanginoa's Immigration Department case officer Kerry Anne Merriman, said she was at the detention centre on a separate case when she was asked to try to persuade Mr Tanginoa to come down. She refused because, she told the inquest, she felt “out of her depth”.
Since then, Immigration Department compliance officers have been given training in “incident de-escalation”, she said.
Staff tried to revive Mr Tanginoa on the ground as detainees rioted around them, with one inmate threatening to kill them if Mr Tanginoa died.

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/01/21/1042911381785.html


Posted 23 January 2003

Day Three of the inquest into Viliami's death was devoted to testimony from 4 former fellow-detainees and two ACM employees.
Some of the detainees had observed only the beginning and the aftermath of the crisis, but one observed Viliami's plunge to his death. Interestingly, one refugee asserted that he had NOT been allowed to check his statement after he gave it.
From the questioning, it is obvious that a great deal is going to be made of the fact that an ACM witness alleged that Viliami held his hands above his head before he “dived” to his death, whereas one of the refugees recollects him as “diving” with his hands by his sides. This may be used to discredit the refugee's account (why not the guard's one wonders?) rather than to corroborate the fact that his “dive” was deliberate.
A great deal is also being made of the fact that detainees call the guards by their first names. It is alleged to show a 'friendly and informal' relationship between guards and prisoners. A great deal is also being made of the fact that detaines did pot regularly report 'concerns' about Viliami to the guards. (Why would they? There was a senior ACM person present all the time.)
Most significant was the testimony of one refugee that an ACM employee came in from the courtyard and gave the assembled detainees a “teasing smile” saying “Pretty wet up there.” The refugee was still visibly angered and shocked by this inappropriate response. (It didn't start raining until the afternoon, and Viliami had therefore been up on the pole for several hours by that time.) Another refugee recalls Viliami saying that he was sacrificing himself for refugees, just as Jesus had sacrificed himself for all mankind. The refugee at the time took this as a joke. Given that all witnesses refer to him as a deeply religious man, I wondered about the likelihood of his making such a joke, but the lawyers appeared to take little notice.
The two senior ACM employees who gave evidence were principally involved in making sure that NOBODY could POSSIBLY have thought an independent negotiator might be required.
One senior ACM employee stated countless times that he did not regard the incident as “major”, ie requiring any outside professional intervention. Hunger strikes are not regarded as “major” until the person has been without sustenance for 48 hours. Nobody asked whether ACM staff have ever heard of fatigue, or whether they seriously proposed leaving Viliami up the pole for that length of time, or if not, how long they DID propose to, in the words of the ACM employee “wait him out”. He also said that, although detainees were prevented from throwing food and drink and cigarettes to Viliami ( for fear of his overbalancing as he tried to catch stuff), sustenance was 'handed' to Viliami by staff. He was not asked how or by whom. They keep referring to Viliami as a gentle giant. This guy must have been another one, or perhaps one of those saintly ACM people developed wings for the purpose.
According to the same senior employee, he rushed to get the first aid materials only AFTER Viliami was on the ground!
Interestingly, this same person was unaware of the Ombudsman's report into certain aspects of the management of the detention centre, which preceded and was of of direct relevance to this tragedy.
If observers were sickened by the convenient tears of various female ACM employees during the first two days, they were absolutely nauseated by the spectacle of one of the senior ACM men trundling his young baby around the anteroom in a pram. I don't find the fact that these people are reproducing especially endearing myself.


Posted 24 January 2003

Day 4 of the Inquest into the death of Viliami began with a video link to Tony Tipper, who left the top ACM position at Maribyrnong to take up the position of manager at Villawood after Viliami's death and is now a tour operator in Noosa.
He is firmly of the belief that if DIMIA had seen fit to give Viliami a written assurance that he would not be removed 'before Christmas' and holding out the (probably illusory) hope that he could re-appeal his deportation, Viliami would have come down from the pole.
Tipper was obviously frustrated by the failure of the case officer to enter negotiations with Viliami, but allowed that with her superior officer actually present at the time, she was not actually the person ultimately responsible for DIMIA's refusal. The lawyers tried very hard to make him say that Viliami would only have moved if he'd been told he would NEVER be deported. Tipper agreed that this was Viliami's wish, but stuck to it that he would have come down if guaranteed in writing a temporary reprieve.
He said several times that he intended eventually to contact even more senior DIMIA personnel, leaving one to wonder, however, just how long he intended to wait.
He kept referring to the whole matter as a minor incident, which only became major when Viliami hit the ground and said firmly that it did not occur to him to call in a police negotiator.
He could offer no sensible explanation of why the video record was so incomplete and no explanation was extracted as to why the tapes were not handed to the police on 22 December. (The police got them on 4 January 2001.)
He could not remember any 'taunting' of Viliami and was the person who told the Operational Manager to stop bouncing his basketball around the area.
The Coroner disallowed a question about his inappropriate behaviour to detainees (the teasing smile and comment about the weather) on the grounds that it was 'one person's perception'.
The next video link was with Denis Fowler, in Port Hedland, who was shift manager and responsible to the Operational Manager. Others may disagree, but I didn't think he added much in the way of information.
Finally the detective who was called to the scene allowed as how he should probably have demanded the videos immediately.
By this time we had reached lunch time and we allw aited for the lawyers to announce that evidence would be taken from the elusive Peter Smits (who as we all recall was the senior DIMIA officer on the scene, was present throughout the day and was the person who told the Case Officer that no written assurance would be given to Viliami. And guess what? Peter Smits STILL cannot be located!!!!
The inquest has therefore been adjourned until 17 March, when two days have been allocated to the case, for Smits and expert witnesses...
Should we open a book on the probability of his appearing?


Posted 24 January 2003

The Matter of Viliami's death was taken SOOO seriously by DIMIA , ACM and the VIC POLICE that
1. Interviews of Witnesses took place 5 WEEKS after Viliami's death. Vic Police said that there were no indications that any witness was going to be deported!!! Over seventeen witnesses were bundled out of the country, some were sent to Villawood , Port Hedland and Perth and one was put in Port Phillip Prison WITHOUT any Charges for 2 months.
2. The video of the events at MIDC taken on the day stayed in the hands of ACM for 10 days before the police collected it. Police acknowledged that “In retrospect” it might have been better to take it immediately!!! Naturally no examination of original has been done to determine if it has been “doctored” even though Court has noted that certain key events are not recorded - Funny That !!!!
3.The Detective attending the scene did not view the Log of Events which was taken on the day that Viliami died. Staff logged the “incident” from the time he went up the pole 8am until he fell?jumped at 4pm.
Shows how seriously the death of a detainee is taken .

And now we wait and see if Peter Smits can be found to give evidence?????


Posted 11 March 2003

URGENT PLEASE TELL FRIENDS_WE NEED PEOPLE IN THE CORONERS COURT
Viliami's inquiry starts again. 10am tomorrow Wednesday

The Inquest into the death at Maribyrnong IDC of Viliami Tanginoa will be the subject of another Court hearing tomorrow (Wed 12/3) at 10 am at the Victorian Coroner's Court at 57 Kavanagh Street, Southbank.
The next of kin of Mr Tanginoa are now legally represented and are seeking to have many of the important ACM and DIMIA witnesses recalled to have their evidence re-examined. The next of kin, who live in Tonga, are making this application in Court because they say that they were not notified of the inquest by either the Coroner's Court or DIMIA and thus were not able to exercise their right to come to court and ask questions about their late father's and husband's death in detention.
This hearing is very important because it is about the basis rights of families to be informed of the most minimal information about the coronial inquest process as it relates to the death of their loved ones and the family's basic rights to be represented in Court if they wish.
Please attend the hearing at 10 am if at all possible. The hearing will go for about 1 hr and DIMIA and ACM will also be legally represented.

Later:

Viliami's inquest has been adjourned until May, when a further three days' hearings are expected.
This is because his family are now represented and have to get through the bureaucratic quagmire to get to Australia so that they can attend the inquest. (You will have read in yesterday's Australian that they weren't even informed when the inquest started its hearings.)
After a good deal of toing and froing, the Magistrate granted leave for the following ACM stars to be recalled for questioning by the family's lawyer:
Ayad (the nurse)
Mulligan (counsellor)
Parkes
Helen Flores
Dave Randich
Tipper
Fowler
From DIMIA we will finally hear from the elusive Mr Smits, who was, you will recall, the most senior DIMIA person on site.

Allan (police) and Mullens (independent report on the tragedy) will also be present.
We need a strong presence there next time to show the family that there ARE people in Australia who care about what happens in detention centres.
It will also be a chance for those of you who missed Helen's stellar performance last time to see an encore under slightly more robust (though very constrained) questioning.


Posted 21 July 2003

Viliami Tanginoa Senior, a fifty three year old Tongan National, died in tragic and horrific circumstances at the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre on 22 December 2000. His death was the first of nine deaths in all forms of immigration detention in Australia and Nauru since December 2000.
Two years and one month after his death, in January 2003, a coronial inquest into his death began at the Coroners' Court in Southbank. Mr Tanginoa's family were not present or represented.
After the adjournement of the inquest it was discovered that his family in Tonga had never been informed of the inquest and their rights of partcipation in the inquest.
The Family have now overcome enormous adversity to travel to Melbourne from Tonga to attend at Mr Tanginoa's inquest which will resume for three days from this Wednesday 23 July to Friday 25 July 2003 inclusive. The Family are now legally represented.
Please attend some or all of the inquest if you are able to. It is important to bear witness and bring your own scrutiny to what happens in the Coroners' Court and what is said to have happened at the detention centre.
The Family will be in attendance in Court. Please give the Family respect and space, as always,to grieve during this time.
The Coroners' Court is located at 57-83 Kavanagh Street, Southbank. The hearing begins at 10 am every day and concludes at 4 pm with a 1 hour lunch adjournement at 1 pm.


Posted 23 July 2003

“A culture which borders on contempt for this man - I think this is what we saw.”
Part of expert testimony at the inquest today - the reference is to the video footage of the events of 22nd Dec 2000 - footage that shows “brief moments when something is done, and enormous periods when nothing is done... Perhaps everything happened in the time when the video camera broke down...”
A fuller report on this and other highlights of today will have to wait - probably till the end of proceedings on Friday - though it was interesting to hear the then DIMIA business manager say that he spent most of his time at work dealing with detainees - chiefly serving them with notices - and so 'relegated' (his word - the Coroner felt obliged to ask him what he meant by it - apparently it meant he didn't actually do it) his role of monitoring ACM compliance with the contract between it and the Commonwealth - just his presence at the centre from 9-5 five days a week would be enough?
However, it would be a shame not to report one thing that even the Coroner with all his experience clearly regarded as verging on the bizarre - counsel for DIMIA's application for leave to apply in camera for leave to apply (yes -I mean this) to have the name of one of tomorrow's witnesses and her testimony suppressed (or heard in camera), and two specified members of the public excluded from the court while she was present. The Coroner did agree to clear the court for the presentation of counsel's arguments, but on resuming in public refused the first application. Counsel had then to make the application in open court, where it was again refused, mostly on the grounds that she has already given evidence and been identified in open court, and in any case the whole point of an inquest is that it is an open and public investigation in the public interest - which outweighs private wishes. So tomorrow there will be an opportunity for the public to hear the continued cross-examination of the ACM staffer in question - I rather doubt there is any need to give her name here. The application to exclude two well-known refugee supporters - who I will leave to out themselves or not as they see fit - was also refused. It was alleged, apparently, that they had abused and threatened the officer in question at her last appearance - the Coroner declared himself puzzled at this claim, seeing that he has extensive powers to prevent such things happening... and that there has been offensive matter posted on the Internet....

The members of Mr Tanginoa's family who were present were obviously deeply appreciative of the support they were receiving from friends who managed to attend. I can only repeat previous urging to all who can make it, to get there to the Coroner's Court tomorrow and Friday - hearings are from 10am to about 4pm, with a break about 1pm - the address 57-83 Kavanagh Street, Southbank.


Detention centre criticised after Tongan death
July 23 2003
By Nick Lenaghan

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/23/1058853125340.html

The handling of events leading up to the death of a Tongan inmate at a detention centre was criticised by a university psychologist today during a Melbourne inquest.
Coroner Phillip Byrne is investigating the death of 53-year-old Viliami Tanginoa who either fell or jumped to his death from a basketball pole at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre on December 22, 2000.
The coroner is also investigating the way Australasian Correctional Management and Immigration Department staff handled the eight hour standoff the day Mr Tanginoa was to be deported.
Garry Thomson, who heads the University of Melbourne's counselling service, told the inquest a systematic management plan was needed to successfully resolve the crisis.
But after reviewing the events leading up to Mr Tanginoa's death Mr Thomson could not identify a “systematic and coordinated approach” which would have helped to resolve the incident, he said.
“It seemed to me there was not a structure or a strategy for management of the event that would meet my requirements as a consultant,” he said.
Mr Thomson, who previously advised the Victoria Police Force, said the detention centre staff should have considered bringing in trained negotiators to assist them.
Police negotiators would have contained the situation and adopted a flexible and comprehensive approach to resolve the crisis, he said.
Without such a plan detention centre staff would end up with a “fixed approach” and “limited options” to deal with the situation, he said.
He rejected suggestions from Robert Shepherd for Australasian Correctional Management that involving the police would have led to confusion.
“There's always potential for lack of cohesion when it's not managed well,” Mr Thomson said.
Today's inquest which was adjourned from January was also attended by Mr Tanginoa's widow Tonti and one of his sons, Viliami junior who flew from Tonga with funds raised by Melbourne's Tongan community.
The Tanginoa family in Tonga had not been informed of the inquest when it began in January.
It continues this afternoon.


Posted 24 July 2003

Today's hearing in brief:
This morning was high-tech time: two video links, one with ex-ACM employee Tony Tippett, Centre Manager at MIDC at the time of Viliami's death, cross-examined from an unspecified location via a link with apparently inadequate bandwidth; and Dennis Fowler, now at Port Hedland, who was shift supervisor on the day. We also heard more from Peter Smits, DIMIA local business manager, and Mark Butler, ACM training officer, as well as further cross-examination of Helen Flores and Greg Parkes, ACM staff involved on the day. Apart from the case Mr Smits, there was a direction in force from the Coroner that questioning of ACM/DIMIA staff should be limited to matter relating specifically to the question of training. A surprise witness was detective senior constable Paul Allen, who read a statement - his third to this inquest - regarding attempts to contact the family of Mr Tanginoa, and answered questions about the video shown at previous hearings. It transpired that he learned of the existence of this video at the time of his attendance at the centre, although he did not see it at the time, and he knew it had been made with a handheld camera. When asked whether he had taken custody of it he replied he had not, and when asked why, replied it had been an oversight. He had subsequently been provided with the tapes by MIDC management, the original tapes, not copies, and had had copies made for the court - which he had not viewed in toto. The original tapes were apparently still in his possession ... we also learned that he had seen the report of the ACM investigator, Brad Lindgard(?), but had not had personal contact with him; he had not himself conducted any interviews with detainees, nor had any member of the police tactical response squad assisted. If there were any tapes of interviews held by the ACM investigator he did not know of them. The police response unit included two trained negotiators. He confirmed that these teams were based at Flinders Street at the time, a point made yesterday by Garry Thomson ....

The temperature rose on a few occasions today, at one point prompting the Coroner to intervene to complain that proceedings were taking on an adversarial tone. But apart from the obvious differences between counsel for ACM and DIMIA on the one hand, and those representing the interests of the family on the other, it was hard to avoid feeling that a major concern of ACM and DIMIA vis a vis each other in this inquest is to ensure if possible that blame for what happened should come to rest at the other's door, if not somewhere else altogether ....

Friday saw the end of cross-examination of witnesses, followed by summaries from the various counsel - effectively the end of the hearing. The Coroner concluded proceedings with a warning that his deliberations were likely to take some time, because of the amount of material he would need to review, although he would be giving it priority, but made a special point of announcing that his finding would not include a finding that Mr Tanginoa committed suicide.(For more detailed notes of the last three days of the hearings, click here.)


From Simon O'Neill - Jan 2001
The following notes were taken after visits to the detention centre on the week following the death, from information provided by detainees, who were anxious that the truth be told. They felt their lives are worthless: you can read from the notes how the situation was treated by ACM staff. They want to know that people in Australia do value them as people, and that such a death cannot be swept away by ACM or any other authorities as though it was insignificant.

At 8am the events began, with people saying William was up the basketball pole, and threatening to jump. Other detainees went out to the basketball court to talk to him. The ACM guards came and cleared the area, and locked the doors to the basketball court (between 9am and 10am). William asked to speak to the DIMA officer, who refused to speak to him. Some time after 12 a detainee, threw him some chocolate, and was then hassled by ACM guards. At around 2:30pm, five single mattresses were laid out around William, but were removed after he told them to take them away or he would jump. At 3pm, the operation manager (‘Dave’), was playing basketball around the hoop where William was, and throwing the ball up to the hoop, taunting William. Another officer, Helen, went out and in response to William asking for cigarettes, placed one on the ground and told him to jump to get it.

detainees were asking the ACM manager to get a counsellor, but he told them she was busy. At 4pm, after all day up there with rain and no food, no water, no cigarettes, William stood up then jumped. The detainees broke the doors to get to him, and he was still alive, with a pulse and breathing. At 4:35pm (35 minutes later) the ambulance arrived, and the ambulance officers attempted resuscitation, but William died. The detainees then in anger broke cameras, a computer, windows, the coke machine, and a clothes iron. A fire was started. The detainees refused to let William’s body be taken unless the media or family were there, fearful of a coverup. At 7:30pm, 100 police and 20 ACM riot squad officers cleared the area, and the body was taken away.

Subsequent to this, I have spoken to another detainee, who has told me that William had received a letter from DIMA earlier in the week saying he would be deported on that Friday. Rather than have breakfast, he went to the recreation room, fearful of being grabbed. The guards came with handcuffs for him, which is when he went outside and climbed the basketball pole. I heard from this person how William was refused food and drink and cigarettes throughout the day, and again about the lightness with which ACM staff treated the situation. William’s case officer in DIMA was contacted by a detainee, but she refused to come to the detention centre. A promise was made to William by the ACM manager that he would not be deported for at least a week, but when William requested this in writing it was refused. A final request for cigarettes was refused, at 4pm, subsequent to which William jumped, landing on his head.

William had lived in Australia for 17 years. He had a partner and four brothers in Australia.

The following account was originally posted by Cyrus Sarang in [email protected]

A testimony from a detainee, said he was present during the suicide of William. His identity would be concealed for security reasons. He is detained in the Maribynong detention center 1 month and 10 days.

Eyewitness statement is as follows:

At about 7.30 AM I heard that William Lakisagi had climbed up the basketball post in the yard. We were in the yard for morning walk. We have seen him all around the day. At about 2 PM one of the ACM Officer named Tony Keeper put a few single mattresses around the basketball post.

At the same time all detainees have been forced to get into the hallroom and the officers locked the door because they didn't want us to see and speak or communicate with William.

I have told one of the ACM Officers, please don't put pressure on him, he might jump down. The Officer told me in reply "I don't give a shit about him, it is not my responsibility. It is the responsibility of DIMA".

Sometime later two ACM Officers arrived in the yard close to the basketball post to get him. William climb up more higher, this was happing twice, finally they dropped that tactics.

We could see him from the windows and door's glasses very clearly. He asked for bread but the ACM Officer Tony Keeper and Peter Dave refuged. They refuged to open the door, give him bread and they were laughing at William as if it was a very funny matter.

He also asked for a cigarette, again the Officers stopped us. Heavy rain started with cold wind. William was getting wet in the rain, he asked for a towel to put it on top of his head. We were ready to give him a towel but we have been refused by two ACM Officers as of before.

He jumped down by his head towards the concrete floor of the yard. ACM Officers open the door at about 4 PM. I along with few other inmates from different nationalities reached to the place where William's body was laying down on his back, his eyes were open, bleeding from the moth and ears and nose. I guess he was still alive. ACM Officer Peter Dave told me to touch him and get his pulse reading, I did so. I felt that he was alive. Other ACM Officers were doing CPR and cleaning his moth because he was bleeding heavily. I was rubbing his arm like padding him to come down. Within the next 5 to 6 minuets I think was died.

I checked his pulse again, it was still and his eyes were open too. ACM Officers were talking on the radiophone for Ambulance, it took about an hour for them to arrive.

I heard from a two way conversation of a radiophone of one officer that they are not allowing the Ambulance to come inside. One of the officer said yes let it come in. They waited for 50 minutes. William's body was there for 4 hours. All the detainees came out to the yard and they were outraged and angry enough to attack the Officers. Some detainees and I tryed to speak to the angry detainees and asked them to calm down.

All detainees were very angry, they smashed a lot of things and put fire in the detention center. All the Children also see the dead body which was laying on the ground for 4 hours.

All ACM Officers were asking for "backup" on the radiophone. We have seen more than 100 police, 30 riot control squad and ACM Guards were coming inside the centre. They did it by excessive force, took the dead body away, digging the basketball post out and they took it away. During this time 3 other detainee said, we going to kill ourselves and one of them cut his stomach by shapr shaving blade. It was deep enough, he did it twice,

ACM Officers arrested those three and locked them in cell.

I am severely shocked. Like others in detention, I can't get sleep, I asked for medication, they gave me Panadol only. All dessidents here psychologycally affected due to this incident. Everybody is shocked and scared now.

[Note - 21 April 2005: please refer also to a statement issued by a large number of detainees at Maribyrnong on 29 December 2000, originally reproduced on the RAC-Vic site, and available here.]

The following was originally posted in [email protected]

To protest at the appalling and negligent treatment of Viliami Tanginoa by ACM staff that led to his death at Maribyrnong last Friday, there will be a memorial protest on Monday 1/1/01 at 2:30pm at the detention centre (Hampstead Rd, Maribyrnong). People are asked to bring flowers in memory of Viliami. The protest is to remember this man as a human being, and to protest the continued imprisonment of all detainees.

Please come - support has been received from the Australian Arabic Council, the Tongan community, the Fijian community, the Greens, Baptist Church in Brunswick, socialists, unionists, student unionists, and the detainees, who will be holding a peaceful protest inside the centre at the same time.

The true story was only revealed after activists spoke to detainees and passed on the truth to the media, who had previously simply reported the ACM lies. Articles in the Australian on Wednesday and Thursday, and in the Age on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, gave the detainees' view.

Further info please call Simon 9531 1142 or Judy 0418 347 374

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Letter and Statement of welcome from Maribyrnong detainees to Capt Arne Rinnan of the Tampa. See Messages

Attempted deportation from Maribyrnong

The following was posted on the Refugee Action Collective news group (RAC-Vic news) on Friday 15 March by Simon O'Neill of the Collective:

The Refugee Action Collective in attempting to organise to prevent deportations needs to be spurred by events last night, when a refugee held a piece of glass to his throat in the face of baton-wielding ACM guards, long enough to miss his flight and delay deportation.

Fortunately, his paperwork will be done today by Kon Karapanagiotidis of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, and Pamela Curr, both of whom have done fantastic work supporting refugees in the past and continue to do so. With the claim lodged, the man should be safe from deportation while his claim is processed.

Although RAC committee members knew of the incident at around midnight last night, and followed events carefully, we clearly need to formulate plans to be able to respond collectively, whether that means mobilising people to go to the airport or to the detention centre as needed.

Next time the refugee may not be so lucky.

Later information was that the detainee in question was Albanian (note from webmanager)

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Age report on Hossein court case

In addition to the postings on the mdc-watch email group, there has been excellent coverage by Russell Skelton in The Age, most especially on Tuesday 28 May. Click here for the online version.

Following the forcible deportation of Nader Sayadi Estahbanati on Wednesday 29 May, The Age published a further article by Russell Skelton under the headline 'Iranian stowaway sent back to sea' (page 6, not available online), pointing out amongst other things that '[Mr Estahbanati] had strong claims for political asylum because he had given evidence in open court that he was a political dissident and that his life would be in danger if he was sent back to Iran.'.


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