Warning: This story includes reference to people who have died.
The family of Alana Garlett, who died homeless on the streets of Perth in June 2021, is still searching for answers.
Her niece, Danika Garlett, told the National Indigenous Times her family wanted an inquest not only for their loved one, but the many homeless people who have died in Perth in the past two years.
“It gets harder and harder every time we hear about someone because it’s probably someone we know, someone who knew our aunty. It’s a horrible feeling,” she said.
Research by UWA associate professor Lisa Wood suggests 56 street-present homeless people died in Perth in 2020, 28 per cent of them Indigenous.
“She would always look after the younger ones in town and she was always caring and sharing” – Norma Garlett
In November, the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations announced a State parliamentary inquiry into homelessness services in Western Australia. The inquiry is expected to begin this month.
“This needs to be taken seriously, like it is in other states,” Ms Garlett said.
“What we want is an inquest so we know what happened to my aunty, so we know what happened to the rest of them as well, because they are dying out quickly.
“Me and my mother, rest in peace, we found out first. It made her sicker than she already was. We had to tell everyone else, it was hard, bringing a sense of dread. We thought ‘the family is never going to be the same again’.”
Ms Garlett said the family still did not know what had killed Alana.
“They only told us it was natural causes, that’s all we got. She was 38 years old,” she said.
“In the last couple of years how many bodies have there been? Just after Alana someone died outside the train station. Every weekend there is someone that dies in town.”
She urged the public to have empathy for homeless people.
“Don’t walk past people and think ‘they never had the life you do’, many of them did and they got it taken away from them quite suddenly. When you are homeless it is hard, no one listens to you, they see you as a crazy person.”
Alana’s mother Norma Garlett said her daughter had been hesitant to accept help from the family.
“She was the mother of six children and she took pride in her children,” she said.
“We raised her to never take advantage of anyone, we raised her to treat people kindly. She would always look after the younger ones in town and she was always caring and sharing. It is a shame that her life had to end like that.”
Mrs Garlett said getting to the heart of how her daughter died would help her grandchildren come to terms with the loss of their mother.
“It will have a great impact on her children. They still don’t understand now, they want answers. If we can get some answers, we can give them to the kids,” she said.
Alana’s sister Michelle Garlett, who had been outspoken for her calls for justice, died of cancer within months of her sister.
WA Housing Minister John Carey said the State Government had invested heavily into health and homelessness responses such as a medical respite facility in Northbridge.
“This new investment was made because we know people who are recuperating from hospital treatment have a better chance of making a recovery if they are not discharged from hospital onto the streets,” he said.
“The McGowan Government invests more than $100 million annually on homeless services.
“As the Minister of the newly created Homelessness portfolio, my focus is on identifying areas of reform and improvement in how our investment and services are delivered.”
Mr Carey said the State Government acknowledged homelessness as a contributor to premature death.