Māori detainee dies in detention centre

updated By Ripeka Timutimu
  • Australia

A Māori detainee has died at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney overnight. Australian authorities have confirmed a man died, but would not name the man. Te Kāea understands that it is 42-year-old Rob Peihopa of Te Aupouri and Ngāpuhi. His mother Hera Peihopa is still reeling from his death.

It was only two weeks ago, Rob Peihopa was leading this haka as his friend departed the Villawood detention centre. Today his family are mourning his loss.

“I'm still coming to terms with the fact my son is deceased until I see him it really hasn't completely sunk in,” says Peihopa's mother, Hera.

Hera, was told of her son's death by a friend. She says she had a three hour wait before police officials finally told her the truth, “They told me he had been found just around 10pm and he had been sparring with someone and he went to sit down and collapsed and never regained consciousness. They said it was a possible heart attack, but that didn't right true to me.”

Peihopa had been in Villawood for around nine months after serving time for an alleged police chase.

He told Te Kāea last year he wanted to get out for his three kids, "I'm scared for their future, of course I am, I don't want a future without my kids, I don't want that, I need my kids and they need me you know."

Labour MP Kelvin Davis says he's saddened by Peihopa's death, and wants our government to do more to protect its citizens, “How many of our relations have to die in those correction facilities will it take for the government to stop this from happening? I suspect that John Key doesn't want to stand against his mate, Malcolm Turnbull.”

New Zealand MP John Key warns the public, “I would just caution everyone of jumping to conclusions of the cause of death, certainly some of the claims I've seen don't go with the information I have at the moment.”

Despite that, Hera says telling Robs children will be the hardest part, “That will be hard, that will be hard because Rob has been estranged from his partner for four months and hasn't seen the kids in that time, and he was broken hearted.”

Rob Peihopa never realised his dream of freedom in Australia, instead his family are now preparing to return his body home to be buried.