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Coronial inquiries

Community Legal Centres Queensland believes that transparency is essential in ascertaining the details of an individual’s death, both for the individual’s family and for public awareness. 

Community Legal Centres Queensland advocates 

  • actions to increase transparency in the processes of coronial inquiries and the implementation of their recommendations;
  • The involvement of families and other interested parties in the coronial inquiry process. 

Community Legal Centres Queensland recommends that:

1. The Queensland Government act to adopt core best practice and guarantee that the preservation of life is central to our coronial system, by introducing, prevention and reporting amendments to our coronial legislation.
These amendments should include or have the effect of:

  • a preamble that expresses the role of the coronial system as including independent investigation of deaths for the purpose of finding the causes of those deaths and to contribute to the prevention of avoidable deaths, together with the promotion of public health and safety and the administration of justice;

2. The Queensland Government should work with the Commonwealth Government to achieve a uniform national coronial public reporting and review scheme for coronial findings and recommendations which:

  • guarantees that all coronial recommendations will be considered and meaningfully responded to by the government agencies or entities to whom they are directed (updates on progress towards implementation should be provided by the relevant agency or entity where the initial response was only a holding response); 
  • provides ready public access to all coronial findings, recommendations, responses and updates; 
  • records and makes publicly available (including via a Coroners Annual Report to the Queensland Parliament and on the Internet) whether or not coronial recommendations have been implemented by responsible government agencies or entities; 
  • enables evaluation of the impact of coronial recommendations upon the prevention of deaths;
  • adheres to timeliness at every step of the recommendations process; and
  • Provides feedback to families (including a copy of recommendations and responses to families, other parties and legal representatives) at every step of the recommendations process.

3. As an important element of Recommendation 2, the Queensland Government should:

  • appoint coronial liaison officers to enable public sector agencies to respond to coronial recommendations in a timely and appropriate manner; and
  • Allocate the responsibility for monitoring the implementation of coronial recommendations to an independent statutory body adequately resourced for the task and with powers to alert the Government and public about any key implementation issues. 

4. The Queensland Government should work with the Commonwealth Government to enable Queensland to effectively recognise the international human rights obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right to life by introducing, as appropriate, amendments to their coronial legislation so that coronial investigation is independent, appropriately and adequately resourced, and considers systemic issues. 

In particular, in investigations into deaths in police custody or in the course of police operations, the agency conducting the primary investigation at the direction of the Coroner must have practical, institutional and hierarchical independence from the police.

5. Primary and secondary coronial legislation in the various jurisdictions should be amended or introduced in recognition of the principle that participation of families in the inquest process is a fundamental component of Australia's international human rights obligations.

Specifically, reforms must enable families and friends of the deceased to experience the coronial process in as sensitive, timely and fully informed a manner as possible, regardless of the circumstances of the death. 

These reforms must include:

  • Provision of proper and timely notification of family members and proactive provision of accessible, timely and explanatory information, at every stage of investigation and inquest processes. This should include as comprehensive as possible access to police and coronial documents, and accessible material on families’ legal rights; 
  • no unreasonable delays in investigations and inquests; 
  • resolution of any cultural or spiritual conflicts raised by the coronial process; 
  • recognition of the need to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal and health services and communities involved in the coronial process; and 
  • Provision of quality, accessible, and culturally and spiritually appropriate support and counselling services for families.

6. The Queensland Government should establish or continue funding for their own Coroners Prevention Unit similar to the current Victorian model and funded to facilitate an effective role for the Unit in the reforms in Recommendations 1-5.

7. The Queensland Government should adequately fund their coroner’s courts with the aim of reducing delays in inquests, investigations and the delivery of findings, in order to at least conform to current national standards. 

8. The remaining recommendations of the National Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991) must be implemented.