Aboriginal community leaders and family of inmates called for improved transparency and establishment of a wellbeing hotline at WA’s Acacia Prison weeks before an ex-inmate’s death.

National Suicide Prevention Trauma Recovery Project spokeswoman Megan Krakouer, Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Mervyn Eades, and Djoona managing director Joe Collard, alongside two Aboriginal Acacia staff members and a number of prisoners’ family members, met with a Serco representative in the wake of the riot on February 27.

It is understood the meeting was initiated by an Acacia staff member. The meeting took place before the death of Ricky Lee Cound in Hakea prison on March 25, where he had been transferred from Acacia after the riot.

Ms Krakouer said the meeting tackled a range of issues in the prison which played a role in sparking the riot.

“There was a lot of hostility and there was little information as to what was going on with people’s loved ones in Acacia,” she said.

“There was no communication… which involved Acacia but also the Department of Corrective Services, which manages the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme.

“AVS weren’t able to go in for several days… Even some of those Aboriginal prison staff could not go into the affected units and therefore could not convey any messages from prisoners to their families.”

Ms Krakouer said expanding the AVS and improving transparency were key points raised at the meeting

“One quarter of all Aboriginal prisoners in the state are at Acacia, but you only have a small number of Aboriginal staff,” she said.

“It was very worrying when these staff could not access those effected units.”

Ms Krakouer said the Serco representative was receptive when listening to concerns from family members of Acacia inmates, and suggested those present at the meeting help to recruit potential Aboriginal prison personnel.

National Indigenous Times understands 10 resumes were collected in one weekend subsequent to the meeting.

“The Aboriginal office would understand the community, but also work on the inside to help de-escalate potential situations because they would be known to the people in the prison system,” said Ms Krakouer.

“When you have 200 people in a particular unit in four sections and you only have a handful of staff there are quire a few people in there, it not only places the people detained in the prison in a difficult situation but also the officers.”

The advocates encouraged Serco to establish a dedicated Family Support Officer at Acacia whose job is to ensure families were kept aware of any serious issues prisoners were facing, as well as creation of an Aboriginal consultative committee.

The meeting also discussed establishing a hotline so family members could check on the welfare of prisoners, and mental health training being provided to staff and detainees in Acacia.

Ms Krakouer noted that the number of Aboriginal people working in Western Australia’s prison system was not proportional to the number of Aboriginal prisoners.

A Serco spokesperson said the company understood the importance of cultural safety for Aboriginal men at Acacia Prison and of working with members of the community to ensure both prisoners and staff receive the support they need.

“Serco provides cultural awareness training to all staff as part of their induction and throughout their employment.

“Keeping families informed of developments in the health and safety of those in our care is an important part of the service we provide, and prisoners are encouraged to keep in regular contact with their families.”

The spokesperson said Serco would work with the community to improve safety for prisoners and staff.