June 21st 2007
Wulgurukaba elders respond to Hurley verdict
Following the not guilty verdict for Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley who was tried over the death, in 2004, of Aboriginal resident Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island which neighbours Magnetic across Halifax Bay, Magnetic Times sought the views of two Magnetic Island elders, both of whom were born on Palm Island themselves.
Arthur Johnson of Picnic Bay is a senior elder of the Wulgarukaba, the Traditional Owners of Magnetic Island. Arthur attended the trial but had difficulty hearing the arguments but commented that, He (Hurley) admitted that he was the cause of Mulrunji's death. He admitted that it was an accident but there should be something else now. I think Mulrunji's family should be compensated.
Arthur Johnson agrees with Gulf based Aboriginal activist Murandoo Yanner who described Sen. Sergeant Hurley as a, "white O.J. Simpson" and called for civil proceedings against Sen Sargent Hurley.
Arthur's daughter, Ms Christine George of Picnic Bay, who is also a Wulgurukaba elder told Magnetic Times, when asked what she felt about the verdict, "Firstly I was disappointed but I think the Aboriginal community got the desired effect. He (Hurley) is the first policeman prosecuted. The first brought to justice (over a death in custody) and although he wasn't convicted - most Aboriginals would be appalled at the decision - but I think that bringing him to court will mean the police will be more careful in their policing activities.
Christine George believes that the trial was a fair one. "They (the prosecution) had the best people to represent them and I don't think they would have done any better"
"Generally I think that the Aboriginal community have had a victory because they lobbied for a policeman to be brought to justice. They will be disappointed but they can move on and find closure. It's the same for Hurley and his family but I don't think there will be any more deaths in custody like that one."
When Magnetic Times spoke to Chris George in December 2006, regarding the DPP's disputed finding in the case, she commented, "Justice issues are nothing compared to the socio-economic issues of people living in remote communities like Palm."
As the death of Mulrunji and so many of the problems related to Palm Island involve the abuse of alcohol and with Cape York Aboriginal community leader, Noel Pearson, this week releasing a major report outlining strong measures to end "passive welfare" and attach obligations to parents receiving welfare to insure children in particular are properly supported (Read ABC's 7.30 Report transcript here), we asked these Wulgurukaba elders for their response.
Arthur Johnson, "I think he's on the right track - kids not getting to school and people getting drunk. It's no good"
Christine George said, "I think let's see how it goes at Hopevale (Noel Pearson's Cape York community). But you have got to look at all aspects of remote communities, not just drunkeness but poor housing and education. If you have an educated community it's not going to have such a high substance abuse problem as people will be educated in what it does to their bodies."
Story & photo: George Hirst
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