December 16th 2006
"Nothing has really changed" says Magnetic Elder
As Palm island's near neighbour, Magnetic Island may seem a world away from the troubled and tormented community across Halifax Bay who, this week, received news that the police officer, Sen Sgt Chris Hurley, involved in the death in custody of a Palm Islander, Mulrunji Doomadgee, would not face trial. Magnetic Island traditional owner, and Elder of the Wulgurukaba people, Ms Christine George, spoke to magnetictimes.com about the decision.
"It was an absolutely appalling decision that overturned the recommendations of the coroner. I think he (Hurley) should be tried by a jury instead of one person making the decision." said Ms George.
On Thursday the Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare decided there was no evidence to suggest Sen Sgt Hurley was criminally responsible for Mulrinji's death in 2004.
The decision contrasts with the earlier findings of the Acting State Coroner, Christine Clements who found that Sen Sgt Hurley had caused the death of Doomadgee.
Ms George went on to say, "Nothing has really changed. There are numerous instances of Aboriginals being incarcerated for minor crimes and receiving punishments that didn't fit the crime. There doesn't seem to be any consideration for the situation Aboriginal people are currently in."
Christine George was born on Palm Island herself in 1946 when Palm was a mission under the control of a superintendent.
"In those day we never had legal support. There wasn't a situation where anything could be reviewed" she said.
As for today, "Justice issues are nothing compared to the socio-economic issues of people living in remote communities like Palm. There are thousands of issues and not one that stands out that might correct the situation. I think it is up to the people of Palm Island to find a way forward. All we can do is support whatever their plans are."
Chris is keen to join whatever protests are to be held over the decision. "I'm sure there will be one next week." she said.
When asked if she thought local member and parliamentary Speaker, Mike Reynolds, who described the situation as "calamitous" before leaving on an overseas holiday, had done enough for Palm Islanders over this, she said, "I don't think Mike Reynolds can do too much." adding, "It doesn't seem like the justice system is independent of government. It seems like a cover-up.
"It's not right. Her (Leanne Clare's) comment that, "he (Doomadgee) had a complicated fall" is something I don't think the medical profession would agree with in those terms. You can't have a complicated fall and die like that."
The coronial inquest found that the death occurred as a result of a scuffle between Sen Sgt Hurley and Doomadgee after Doomadgee was arrested for swearing. Sergeant Hurley claimed he fell on the watchhouse floor beside Doomadgee but an autopsy found that the prisoner suffered from four broken ribs and his liver was severed in two.
Chris George said, "If it was your son that it had occurred to you would be doing everything possible that justice could be done. People in the community should be very mindful that this could happen to them."
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