David Dungay Jr dies in custody, and his family are changed forever – photo essay


In the three years since Davids death, his family have campaigned for him. Carly Earl visits them on the eve of the inquest

Four days after Christmas 2015, Leetona Dungay’s son David Dungay Jr died in Sydney’s Long Bay jail. Prison officers stormed his cell after he refused to stop eating a packet of biscuits. He was restrained and administered a sedative, midazolam, and died.


  • Clockwise from top: a photo of the Dungay children – David is second from the right; Leetona Dungay’s lounge room; David’s bedroom which is now filled with memories of his life; a railway bridge that crosses the Macleay River in Kempsey




Leetona is a Dunghutti woman from Kempsey, just off the Macleay River on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. She has four children. David was her youngest boy.



LISTEN: Leetona Dungay remembers her ‘baby boy’


  • Clockwise from the top: a photo of David Dungay Jr in his football clothes; a mural painted by the Dungay family on a property they used to live in at Burnt Bridge; a house in Kempsey that David grew up in



When David was six he was diagnosed with type two insulin-dependent diabetes. Almost all cases of type two diabetes occur in adults over 40, and managing it is no easy task. So when David was diagnosed his health became Leetona’s full-time job.

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LISTEN: Bidjara poet and activist Ken Canning recites Just a Breath Away, written by David in Long Bay jail

“I was going to write a book on it. Because no one knew how to respond and bring up your child on diabetes and how to treat it,” Leetona says. “I was his nurse and his diabetes educator.”


  • Ernie Dungay

David’s big brother, Ernie, and his eldest sister, Christine, still live in Kempsey, within walking distance of their mum. David followed in Ernie’s footsteps and took up football at a young age. He had natural talent, Ernie says. It was in his blood. Everyone who knew David remembers his skill on the field. Ernie dressed David in his own football guernsey when they buried him.


  • Christine Dungay

David was three weeks away from release after serving almost eight years for assault, aggravated attempted sexual intercourse and party to robbery. His big sister Christine, now with six children of her own, didn’t see David while he was incarcerated. Her job is to keep everybody else going.

Cynthia is the youngest of the Dungay siblings. She moved from Kempsey so she could visit David when he was shifted from Kempsey correctional centre, first to Junee, and then to Long Bay in Sydney. Cynthia spent hours on the bus with her three kids so she could visit her brother every two weeks.


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