A 37-year-old Aboriginal woman with a serious heart condition alleges she was forcibly stripped naked by Alexander Maconochie Centre guards in full view of male inmates.
The woman has been on remand at the detention centre for six months. She has a pacemaker and a collapsed lung and the alleged incident could have killed her, says the ACT’s Aboriginal health service, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Centre, which runs a clinic at the AMC.
In a letter obtained by “CityNews” the unnamed inmate says that in early January, she was told her grandmother had died and as a result she requested to attend the funeral in a week’s time.
The day before the funeral she was told that “due to logistics” the request was denied, which caused her to become “very upset”.
The guards allegedly “feared for her safety”, moving the woman, who has borderline personality disorder and is a sexual assault survivor, into a Crisis Support Unit, where, she wrote, housed seven other men who could see into her cell.
In her letter she alleges that officers – four female officers in “full squad gear”, two male officers and two male nurses – stripped her naked by cutting off her clothes to check she had “nothing on me for my safety”.
“At this time I was menstruating heavily due to blood thinning medication,” she writes.
“Here I ask you to remember that I am a rape victim, so you can only imagine the horror, the screams, the degrading feeling, the absolute fear and shame I was experiencing.
“On Monday, January 12… I felt like I was about to be raped all over again in front of men, women, nurses and five male detainees.
“I used to think those things don’t happen in places like this anymore [but] after being punished by not being able to attend the funeral, then again to be abused and have my clothes cut off me by force, and further degraded whilst menstruating with 13 people watching, all whilst being video taped by cameras on walls… this is still happening.”
The woman further alleges that she is “constantly” having applications to have welfare visits denied.
“My mental health has deteriorated to a large degree without the support needed,” she writes.
“I am isolated on my own for 23 hours a day and on the hour out, I’m made to exercise in a wing filled with men. No female contact.
“I have also had my phone cut off for two to three days at a time, so I can not call family.”
Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO Julie Tongs, says the treatment alleged in the letter was “disgusting” and showed a “complete disregard” for the woman’s dignity and well-being.
On January 22, she wrote to ACT Corrective Services Minister Mick Gentleman demanding an inquiry into the allegations.
“The letter speaks for itself and does not require me to expand on or seek to summarise the egregious, heartless and totally unacceptable treatment which [the woman] has suffered while in your care and under your control,” Ms Tongs wrote.
“I will say, however, and I am sure you will agree, that she has been treated with not only a callous disregard for the serious health conditions she lives with, but with complete disregard for her human rights, dignity, mental and psychological wellbeing and her Aboriginality.”