An increase in ice binges in remote Aboriginal communities is being blamed on long delays at morgues.
The claim was made as part of evidence put forward as part an inquiry into the effect of ice in Australia, stating the delays impacted how the Indigenous community grieved.
Terina King, a transition worker from Broken Hill’s Community Restorative Centre in western New South Wales, said the delays meant ‘Sorry Business’ – the Aboriginal process associated with death – went on longer.
‘I have had clients tell me they “really hit the gear hard over that time”. There is nothing to support them through that,’ she said in a statement.
Ms King said for any death the body is sent for an autopsy, typically in Newcastle, forcing families to wait up to four weeks until burial (stock image)
‘I have seen the impacts of ice, not only related to my work but also as a member of the Aboriginal community.
‘Drug and alcohol use within the Aboriginal community definitely increases significantly when a death occurs, and the whole family comes together for sorry business.’
She said funerals impact the entire community and as soon as a death occurs some people can fall off the radar – sometimes for a period of six weeks.
Ms King said for deaths where autopsies are deemed necessary the body is sent to Newcastle, allegedly forcing families to wait up to four weeks until burial.
‘Then you need time for the healing process. It can take longer than six weeks. We need to give people that space to heal,’ she said.
She said sometimes clients acknowledge they needed a break after this period.
WHAT IS SORRY BUSINESS?
Sorry Business is when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mourn the loss of loved ones.
It is an important time of mourning and family and community members have responsibilities to attend the funeral and cultural event.
Sorry Business may also occur if a person is in prison or sick.
‘We can go in there and see them, but there is nothing to help them when they are withdrawing and processing grief and loss,’ she said.
‘When they are coming down they are highly stressed, and they know what is causing it, but there’s no support to help them get through it.’
She said growing up she remembered there was no drinking before the funeral and now because people are travelling further drug and alcohol use is more common.
The Special Commission of Inquiry Into The Drug Ice heard drug detections by police in Broken Hill have spiked 91 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and this spike has been raised as part of the inquiry.
In 2017 the government decided all cases referred to the coroner in Broken Hill would be referred to Newcastle for post-mortem.
The Special Commission of Inquiry Into The Drug Ice heard drug detections by polic in Broken Hill have spiked 91 per cent between 2017 and 2018, and this spike has been raised as part of the inquiry. Pictured: Newcastle morgue
Families in the area raised concerns at the time saying this would delay funerals by weeks, according to the ABC.
Aboriginal leader Sean Gordon said Sorry Business is an extremely important time in the community as it allows people to say their goodbyes.
‘If funerals are being delayed because of the current practices of taking a body from Broken Hill to Newcastle, then that is just not good enough,’ he said.
‘If you don’t get to that point as quick as possible then what tends to happen in our communities is that the grieving process then takes longer and then starts to take shape in the forms of drug and alcohol abuse.’
Aboriginal leader Sean Gordon said Sorry Business is an extremely important time in the community as it allows people to say their goodbyes
He said families aren’t able to deal with the loss because of these delays.
There are no current delays at the Newcastle morgue and it typically takes five days for an examination to be complete, also operating a Rural Triage to avoid unnecessary transfers.
However this can vary due to matters such as police investigations.
New South Wales Health Pathology’s Forensic and Analytical Science Service’ Rebecca Gigli said they have strategies to help deal with the high demand, such as relocating forensic pathologists.
She said she also reached out to those who are grieving and understands it is a difficult time to go through.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the New South Wales Health Pathology for comment.
There are no current delays at the Newcastle morgue and it typically takes five days for an examination to be complete, also operating a Rural Triage to avoid unnecessary transfers (stock)