Oct 29, 2008

Chloe Hooper: In search of Palm Island’s true victims

Cameron Doomadgee’s death on Palm Island triggered a kind of war, writes Chloe Hooper.

On Monday it was announced that the twenty-two Queensland police officers involved in Palm Island’s November 26 2004 riot would receive bravery awards. No doubt it was terrifying to wear a police uniform on the island that day. Nineteen police officers found themselves barricaded in the police barracks as locals threw rocks and mangos and steel pickets over the cyclone wire fence, yelling, "We are going to burn you! Kill the c-nts, the Captain Cook c-nts!"

Over the road the police station was ablaze, as was the house of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. A week earlier, Hurley had locked up Cameron Doomadgee for swearing, and left him to die with injuries consistent with a victim of a car or plane crash. Nevertheless that morning the State Coroner had announced Doomadgee’s death was the result of a fall. This riot was both a protest and payback.

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17 thoughts on “Chloe Hooper: In search of Palm Island’s true victims

  1. Marilyn

    I am watching with sickened disgust the “First Australian’s” and find myself weeping at the end of every episode. I found out a year ago that my own great-grandfather led an “abo hunt” in my home district and they wiped out an entire tribe just over 100 years ago. After more than 20 years of working on things like the ATSIC legislation, the book “Survival in our own Land” (which still sells after 20 years) from John Coulter’s office, marching with the aboriginal and other people in 1988 for peace, hope and justice and varying other activities for aboriginal rights I find that I was just a pig ignorant moron.

    I am also reading “The Tall Man” and what strikes me is that the treatment of and language towards those people on Palm Island prison is no different to the treatment and language in 18th century NSW, or 19th century Tasmania and Victoria, nor early 20th century Northern Territory or middle of the century country wide. Shameful isn’t it?

    I was lucky enough to meet Yami Lester 20 years ago. He is a great, great man.

    Then we see this week that Wotton is convicted of riot, yet he broke it up.

    And the stupid media report that the Devil’s Marbles have been handed back after “a 28 year battle”. Maybe there was a 28 year battle through the courts but what about the other 200 years of dispossession?

    The media language, the police language, the language has to change.

  2. dermot

    Kate you claim mistakes and that is all you can offer. riiiight. also what makes you an authority?

  3. Kate

    for a start Chris Hurley’s mother never attended the trial, as stated in the book – I don’t know who the lady was who was identified as his mum, but it certainly wasn’t her! It’s not the biggest mistake in the world, but it shows the novel isn’t accurate in its entirety. As I said, the language in the book is lyrical, emotional, well-crafted – just don’t assume it’s actually correct.

  4. Cathy

    Apologies take two…he appeared on 7 April..so just scroll the calendar to hear how Peter Beattie ran the state circa Palm Island.

  5. Kate

    hey Stuart, there’s no denying the lady’s got a way with words – it’s a great ‘yarn’ – but let’s not pretend that the book is non-fiction! There’s a number of factual errors in it (including misidentification of key people) which I understand has been referred on for possible legal action. Of course a defamation action may not eventuate, but the fact that anyone vaguely connected to the case can pick big holes in the book indicates flawed research

  6. Stuart

    thanks John, allways good to get the perspective of someone on the ground. Hooper intimates that the prosecution made some mistakes with the jury and the location. I dont begrudge any policeman recognition of bravey, but I think the more important issue of a ‘willfully incompetent’ investigation must not be swept under the carpet.

  7. John

    I have worked on Palm Island and I attended most of Christopher Hurley’s trial in Townsville. I thought Chloe’s depiction of the trial was spot on. I particularly appreciated her depiction of the “us and them” feeling in the courtroom and surrounds. My own view is that it was right that Hurley face trial. I must admit that after hearing the evidence, I was a little surprised by the verdict, but that’s what juries are for.

    The bravery awards seem unjustified to me. While the situation was undoubtedly terrifying for the police inside the barracks, other than getting away, what did they do that deserves special commendation? They were terrified and they got away. Is “being brave” enough to get a medal?

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