Christchurch mother-of-two dies in Australian detention centre

A New Zealand woman who died in a suspected suicide in an Australian immigration detention centre was a mother-of-two who grew up in Christchurch.

Leah Porter was found dead in her room at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney on Sunday.

It is believed she took her own life.

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A New Zealand woman who died in a suspected suicide in an Australian immigration detention centre was a mother of two who grew up in Christchurch.

There are conflicting reports about whether Porter had refused to take medication for mental health issues while in detention, or had been denied access to it.

She had been in Villawood awaiting deportation for several months.

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It is thought her visa had been cancelled under section 501 of the Australian Migration Act, which has led to thousands of people being deported to New Zealand since 2014 because they are deemed to be of bad character.

In a message to a relative earlier this year, Porter said she was taken into custody by Australian Border Force officials after she was released from prison on January 4.

She had spent more than 12 months behind bars but hoped to overturn a conviction for assaulting a police officer so that she could remain in Australia, the message said.

Porter's extended family say she had a troubled and complex life, exacerbated by mental health issues.

A New Zealand woman who died in a suspected suicide in an Australian immigration detention centre was a mother of two who grew up in Christchurch.

She was adopted at birth and grew up in Christchurch, where she attended Burnside High School and the University of Canterbury, and later worked as a taxi driver.

More than a decade ago she moved to Australia, where she lived in Rockhampton in Queensland and more recently Brisbane.

She had two adult children but was separated from their father.

Both her adoptive parents are no longer alive.

Narelle Aitken, a relative who lives in Western Australia, said she was "extremely angry" and "very upset" about Porter's death.

"She should never have been in detention."

Aitken said Porter's mental health issues were amplified when she didn't take medication she was prescribed.

"I loved her to pieces. She was very funny."

A source at Villawood said Porter's death had deeply affected everyone being held there.

"It's just shocking for everyone."

Filipa Payne, an advocate for 501 deportees, said she had been following the case closely and described Porter's death as "horrific".

"I think it shows how desperate people are. When you're sitting at the bottom of the pit, hope doesn't always keep you alive."

Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said Porter's death was a "horrendous example of what's wrong" with Australia's immigration policy.

"People with serious mental health problems can't get the help they need in detention centres."

The New Zealand High Commission in Canberra had been formally advised of a New Zealand citizen's death at Villawood, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said.

They declined to comment further for privacy reasons.

The so-called 501 deportations have caused political tension between Australia and New Zealand, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling the policy "corrosive" to the trans-Tasman relationship.

The Guardian reported that the incoming Australian Labor government had indicated it would continue 501 deportations but would consider changes to ensure visa cancellation decisions might better take into account the length of time a person had spent in Australia.

If you or anyone you know needs immediate support, contact Lifeline 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636. In an emergency, call 000.

This article originally appeared on Stuff and has been reproduced with permission.

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