Beattie snubbed by dead man's family

Peter Beattie addresses the protest on Palm Island over the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Photo: Paul Harris

Cosima Marriner, Palm Island
December 21, 2006

QUEENSLAND Premier Peter Beattie travelled to Palm Island yesterday — only to be snubbed by the family of Mulrunji Doomadgee, the Aboriginal man who died in police custody there in 2004.

Mr Beattie's mission was to placate the community after the decision last week by Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over Doomadgee's death.

Mr Doomadgee's de facto partner, Tracey Twaddle, and his sisters refused to meet Mr Beattie after it became clear that he was not going to order the DPP's ruling be reviewed.

"The family thought it was a waste of time to meet with him," the family's lawyer, Frederic Cassis, said.

"Their family member (was) killed two years ago … as it stands there is going to be no justice for them."

Addressing a fiery rally on Palm Island yesterday afternoon, Mr Beattie repeatedly insisted he could not interfere in the judicial process. But he hinted strongly that he thought Ms Clare should ask for her decision to be reviewed.

"The Premier of the day shouldn't dictate to the Director of Public Prosecutions who is charged," Mr Beattie said. But "if the DPP wants to seek a review … she will have my full support to do so".

Another lawyer acting for the Doomadgee family, Andrew Boe, said the DPP had previously asked for an independent review of her decision not to prosecute swimming coach Scott Volkers, who was accused of sexual abuse.

Mr Boe was yesterday set to lodge an appeal against the DPP's decision — but said it should not be up to the family to try to get "a just outcome".

The DPP's decision is at odds with the findings of deputy state coroner Christine Clements, who in September found that Senior Sergeant Hurley caused Mr Doomadgee's fatal injuries. The coroner found that "Senior Sergeant Hurley lost his temper … (and) hit Mulrunji whilst he was on the floor a number of times … I find there was no further resistance or indeed any speech or response from Mulrunji. I conclude that these actions of Senior Sergeant Hurley caused the fatal injuries."

Last week the DPP found that death was a "terrible accident" due to a "complicated fall" in which a "crushing force to the front of his abdomen" occurred when Mr Doomadgee and Senior Sergeant Hurley fell together through the open door of the police station.

ALP federal president Warren Mundine vowed to start an anti-apartheid-style campaign to ensure justice for Aboriginal people.

He said Mr Beattie had left the Palm Island community "with nothing". "When you come here and say you can't do a thing, then you must accept the cynicism and disbelief of the community," Mr Mundine said. "You are a leader and you need to do something because this will fester on. Justice needs to be done."

Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, who also attended the Palm Island rally, said "not one" indigenous person could be satisfied with the DPP's decision.

A member of the Prime Minister's National Indigenous Council, Wesley Aird, said he would support a civil disobedience campaign.

"If we can't rely on the law, then I think it's reasonable to look at any other options," Mr Aird said. "When there are two sets of rules and they are so blatantly flouted as in this case, then something else has to be done to change this (situation)."