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June 21st 2007
Wulgurukaba elders respond to Hurley verdict

Wulgurukaba elder Mr Arthur Johnson (file photo) 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

To make a comment see below

Wulgurukaba elders respond to Hurley verdict
Wendy Macdonald
June 22nd 2007
Dear George, I am realy struggling with this verdict. I have enquired about purchasing a copy of the transcript of this trial but unfortunately it costs $5 a page and there are about 570 pages. I can however go over to the Court Library and read it and hope to do so next week. I cannot understand that from what I hear and read that no Duty of Care by the Police seems to have come into question and what I need to know is what exactly were the parameters of the trial. Perhaps that was not a .... will wait till I read it.
Name & address supplied
June 22nd 2007
I am unable to make any truthful comment about the arrest of Mr. Doomagee and subsequent activities, because I was not there.

What chain of events within the trial I also do not know.

However, there are two factors involved in all that followed, as reported in the media, that appear to have been overlooked as far as I know
Peter F. Hughes
June 24th 2007
During the one hour of questioning that Hurley was subjected to by the prosecution, enough reasonable doubt was raised to convince a jury in Townsville that indeed manslaughter was not committed.
You may not be convinced, I may not be convinced.
However, justice has been seen to be done.
I agree with both Aurthur's comments and those of Chris George. Progress may be made from this unfortunate event on Palm Island.
Benelong's Haven in Northern NSW has piloted a diversion scheme whereby alcohol affected people are treated as patients in detox centres. This has reduced the chance of a person suffering from alcoholism being locked in a cell. Indeed, this type of diversionary treatment of Indigenous Australians was a recommendation of the Coronial Inquest into the death in custody of Mulrunji.
And now that all this has been said and done, not one single thing has changed for Indigenous Australians in North Queensland. Sure there has been words in Parliament, a few hours coverage on national TV, 540 entries on a blog in The Australian, lawyers gathering at ANU on cold winter nights to wonder at the very direction the law is taking in this country.
But right now, a person with dark skin who has had a few drinks and feels like a walk in public still has a much better chance of suffering death in custody then a 'Migloo'.
Peter F. Hughes
Waurn Ponds,

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