No parents should bury their child without knowing how the child died

by Peter Ajak, a reporter with Sudanese Australians Voices (SAV) 

The mourning community of Sudanese and friends dressed in black crowded into the church to farewell 21-year-old Erjok Manyiel Nai who died in the presence of members of the Victorian Police on August 8, 2012.

Mourner at St Paul’s Cathedral

Erjok’s funeral was held on September 1 at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, opposite Federation Square. More than a thousand people, many of them from the Sudanese community, as well as Erjok’s friends from other nationalities, including his Australian friends, attended the funeral.

 Family and mates are not satisfied with what they were told about the cause of Erjok’s death by the police on the day of his death, when they visited the building in which Erjok died. No one has been arrested over his death. Many community members are convinced Erjok’s death was not suicide and that he did not fall from level 12 to level 3 from a building on La Trobe Street.

 The matter is still under investigation by the Coroner and it is not clear when the official report will be released to relatives and the community. Many people think that Erjok’s death needs to be thoroughly investigated, especially any possible involvement by the police.

‘Erjok was a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a friend, and a Christian’, said Reverend Michael Lazarus at the sermon.   Members of the Sudanese community and Erjok friends filled up the Cathedral beyond its capacity, crowding the aisles and outside the Church. This was a sign that Erjok was loved by many people.

Erjok’s death left behind his siblings, his tearful mother and father, the community and his friends. At his funeral, there were tears soiling their black blouses and suits. ‘He was single, young, he was not sick, he was not suicidal, in fact he is full of life … he is dead and no one is jailed,’ said one of Erjok’s friends.

Members of the Sudanese community and friends attended Erjok’s funeral thinking there would be answers to how such a young life can end with no accountability. No answers and no-one knowing even when members of the Victorian police were with him, and why.

Erjok will never come back from the dead to tell his family and friends his side of the story, about how he died. Members of the Victorian Police who were present, refused to tell the family what happened. “The building Erjok died in is fitted with surveillance cameras. But we are told that these cameras did not record Erjok’s death’’, said one of Erjok’s relatives.

The Victorian Police will have to be more forthcoming about the circumstances of Erjok’s death and how the police deal with the African communities if the force wants to work with Sudanese people and the African community.


4 thoughts on “No parents should bury their child without knowing how the child died

  1. Please email The Age [] to ask that they report this story. This is what I sent; feel free to copy.

    I am deeply saddened to learn that the age has not covered the death of Sudanese-Australian Erjok Manyiel Nai , who died 8 August in the presence of police in Melbourne. I would like to appeal to you, the journalists and editors of the age, the proponents of truth, to help uncover why and how he died. While his death was reported a suicide, he was not psychologically troubled, and reports how that he sustained multiple fractures, indicating that he was possibly beaten or tortured by police before falling 9 stories to his death. Please help expedite the investigation by covering this story.

    Thank you.

  2. No parent should have to undergo the grief of burrying their child without knowing the cause of his death. As much as am sudden with this news of a member of my family, i’m greatly furious of the injusticeness of the Australian governement/police in Victoria. As far as i’m concerned, every Sudanese member here in Australia has or will experience xenophobia in some cases!, and if we don’t begin doing something about it now, these acts of injusticeness will continue and will rapidly grow worse. I’m a close family friend to Big E’s family and him personally, and when i heard of such incident, i was devasted, yet very mad, because it is not the first time the police have shown an act of brutality towards our Sudanese youths.

    I would love to read more about the case, because every South Sudanese deserves the truth behind this brutality, the parents, family members and friends of Erjok deserve to know the truth and Erjok himself deserves justice.!!!!!!

  3. fascinating article. Ejrok’s family and friends as well as the public certainly deserve to know more. I agree with Elizabeth – why wasn’t this reported in the mainstream?!

    The media and society can’t just point the finger at newly arrived African groups and put all onus on them to settle into the Australian community. We as a broader society also have to allow new comers to feel included and welcome by treating them fairly and equally.

  4. Here we go again another sad story but the way the police are handling this matter it is very questionable. This is Australian spirit as they say.Every man has a right to his own opinion. Every race has a right to its own action; therefore let no man persuade you against your will, let no other race influence you against your own. That we sudanese and all africans suffer so much today under whatsoever flag we live is proof positive that constitutions and laws, when framed by the early advocates of human liberty, never included and were never intended for us as a people. It is only a question of sheer accident that we happen to be fellow citizens today with the descendants of those who, through their advocacy, laid the foundation for human rights.

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