Abolishing the crime of public drunkenness was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, which found the offence disproportionately affects Indigenous people.
Tanya is the second member of the Day family to die in custody. Her late uncle Harrison Day’s death was examined by the 1991 royal commission. He died after being arrested for not paying a fine for public drunkenness.
Almost 30 years later, it’s still illegal to be drunk in public in Queensland and Victoria, something Apryl’s sister Belinda wants to see changed.
“Had the recommendation that public intoxication or drunkenness been removed as an offence, Mum wouldn’t have been in the situation that she was in,” she said.
“She certainly wasn’t hurting anyone, she wasn’t aggressive, so it seems to be a systematic failure to implement the recommendations.”
Ms Day’s family often comes to the banks of the Murray River at Echuca to reflect.
Her son, Warren, explained the connection to the land for his mum.
“As a Yorta Yorta woman our tradition is river people. We are born on the river,” he said.
“This is a significant place for my mother.
“I would sit down with her here often. She wouldn’t say much, in fact she wouldn’t speak — she would sit here and have her own quiet time,” he said.
The Murray River where Ms Day found solitude lies on the border of Victoria and New South Wales.
It’s not lost on her family that if their mother had been picked up north of the river, in Moama where public drunkenness has been decriminalised, it’s unlikely she would have ended up in a police cell.
Ambulance Victoria, which attended Ms Day in custody and transported her to hospital, expressed their condolences to the Day family, and said they are conducting an investigation into the case.
The Victorian Attorney-General said she will look at any recommendations the Coroner may make in the inquest.