Family against 'shut up' drugs, probe told

·2-min read

Drugs nicknamed 'shut-up' medicine were opposed by the family of an aboriginal man held in a forensic disability unit in the Northern Territory, an inquiry was told.

The story of Winmartie, the pseudonym given to a man diagnosed with a brain abnormality, is being told to a hearing of the Disability Royal Commission on Friday.

He was subject to "the most severe treatment whilst he was in prison, including frequent use of physical, mechanical, and chemical restraints", according to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, the hearing was told.

Winmartie killed his sole carer at age 16 and was initially held in juvenile detention, commissioners heard.

The Northern Territory Supreme Court found he was not fit to plead, and at a special hearing a jury returned a qualified verdict of manslaughter.

He was transferred to a maximum security prison at age 17 where he stayed for several years before arriving at the forensic disability unit.

His co-guardian, Patrick McGee, became concerned for his welfare while he was held in juvenile detention because he felt Winmartie was 'very heavily chemically restrained".

He told commissioners Winmartie would sometimes bang his head in prison, a behaviour he exhibited in childhood as a sign of frustration.

Guards would pin him down to intervene before taking him to a restraint chair and injecting him with a tranquilliser, Mr McGee said.

Through an interpreter, Elder Aunty Margret Campbell told commissioners she asked for his medication dose to be lowered while he was under the care of the FDU.

"I told them stop it, don't give him that because he's always drowsy and sleepy," she said.

When his dose was lowered, Aunty Campbell said Winmartie was awake and alert, and would participate more actively in his artwork.

Commissioners were told that Winmartie was much happier when interacting with family on country during his limited visits.

"I would like to see him with the family a lot more, I would like to see him in a place where he has the freedom to walk outside his front door and have a walk around his yard," support coordinator, Lorelle Stoeckel said.

"I'd like to see him in his own home where he has what he needs to have a quality life, where he gets to interact and be with the family."

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