WA Premier backs expediting inquest into death of 10yo Aboriginal boy in care of Department of Communities

Josh Zimmerman
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Premier Roger Cook would support expediting a coronial inquest into the suicide of a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy who died in the care of the Department of Communities.
Premier Roger Cook would support expediting a coronial inquest into the suicide of a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy who died in the care of the Department of Communities. Credit: The West Australian

Premier Roger Cook would support expediting a coronial inquest into the suicide of a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy who died in the care of WA’s Department of Communities.

The child took his own life last Friday, about three years after he had been removed from his parents and while he was living with other relatives.

Mr Cook said the “disturbing” and “tragic” case had shocked the State and that “now we are left with the task of getting answers”.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

“Getting answers for the family, getting answers to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep young children safe,” he said.

“Safe in circumstances where they cannot be made safe with their direct family but safe when they go into foster care or other forms of care to ensure that we look after their wellbeing.”

The death of a child in State care automatically triggers a coronial inquest.

An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the suicide of Cleveland Dodd — a 16-year-old who fatally self-harmed in Unit 18 in 2023 — was fast-tracked and commenced in April 2024, just six months after he died.

Mr Cook said he hoped the 10-year-old boy’s family “gets answers — and answers as soon as possible”.

“The matters before the coronial court are indeed for the court to decide,” he said.

“If they decide to expedite this particular case, well that would obviously be welcomed.”

While declining to comment on the specifics of the case, Mr Cook said the boy’s removal from his parents had occurred in line with Communities strict policies.

“In relation to children who are taken into care, they always do so with the Aboriginal child placement principles,” the Premier said.

“Which is about ensuring that, if at all possible, that child goes into the care of another member of the extended family or another member of their Aboriginal community, or someone who is culturally aligned.

“And those principles were followed in this particular case.

“Now we’ll obviously have an opportunity to look at what happened in this particular circumstance.

“And where the State was found to be deficient, if that is the case, we’ll obviously we’ll make sure that we address that.”

The 10-year-old is the second child — after Cleveland — to die by suicide in State care since Mr Cook became Premier, a fact he described as “horrible”.

“These leave you with cause for reflection, cause for concern,” Mr Cook said.

“It makes you wonder what else we can do to make sure that we keep young people safe.”

Mr Cook said Child Protection Minister Sabine Winton would meet with the young boy’s family “if that’s what they want”.

“Our biggest priority at the moment is to support them now with the services that they need but also to get them answers and that’s what we will try to do,” he said.

In 2016, the death of a 10-year-old girl who took her own life in WA’s north-west shocked the nation and formed part of a major coronial inquiry.

Mr Cook insisted child protection practices had improved since then but that “demands on the services are getting greater”.

“And that’s why we continue to make sure that we provide the right investment so we can continue to improve child health workers to make sure we keep these kids safe,” he said.

“It’s a tough job and they do an incredible job working in a very difficult area.”

The boy’s family have requested three other children removed from their care are returned following Friday’s tragedy.

“The circumstances under which a child is removed is obviously extremely complex and I certainly won’t enter into any commentary in relation to this family’s specific case,” the Premier said.

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 28-05-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 28 May 202428 May 2024

Shattered daughter of gunman claims police ignored her firearm pleas