A 60-YEAR-old indigenous woman and her daughter faced a makeshift Palm Island court yesterday charged over their alleged role in the destruction of a police station and courthouse in the north Queensland Aboriginal community.
The hearing comes as pressure mounts for the release of findings from a second autopsy conducted on the body of Cameron Doomadgee, 36, whose death in police custody on November 19 sparked attacks on police by a large group of Palm Island locals a week later.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable KC Smith said Agnes Wotton Snr and her daughter Fleur, 30, had been charged as "rioters demolishing buildings", but yesterday both women signalled their intention to fight the accusations during a brief hearing in a school building.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service principal Kevin Rose told Townsville-based regional co-ordinating magistrate David Glasgow: "They will be strongly defending the charges".
Outside court Ms Wotton said she had no criminal record and had not considered the possibility she might be jailed if found guilty of the charges.
She said the accusations were false but she was more hopeful that mainland Queenslanders would start to understand the problems Aboriginal communities were facing.
"People will know the truth by being around and witnessing how this community is functioning now," Ms Wotton said.
"The main thing is that people understand this is about a death in custody and the problems we've had for so long – the lack of jobs and poor paying jobs for young people.
"If they are not working they get bored so some go out hunting, others do other things.
"Things here are very expensive so when you walk into the Retail Store with a hundred dollars you might walk out with a couple of bags. A lot of these things go on over the years and no one is listening. It takes its toll in people's lives."
Ms Wotton also said she was deeply upset over the fate of 19 other Palm Islanders, including her son, who have been charged with offences relating to the riots and banned from returning to the island under strict bail conditions.
"They are not a big threat to the community," she said.
"This is their home, this is the festive season and I want them back for Christmas. This is very unusual that they would stop these men coming home to their families. If they were non-indigenous people I don't think they would be stopped from coming home."
Both the Palm Island council and the family of Cameron Doomadgee yesterday expressed concern that the results of an independent autopsy had still not been released.
An initial autopsy found that Doomadgee's injuries were consistent with police claims that he had fallen during a struggle with police before he died. The results of that autopsy outraged locals.
Doomadgee's sister, Liz, yesterday said she had contacted authorities and requested the results.
"Yes I spoke to them and they told me that we won't get them until next year, maybe January," she said before taking her gravely sick mother to hospital.
Palm Island mayor Erykah Kyle said the council wanted to know why the results were taking so long. "What are they doing?" Ms Kyle said. "This is for the sake of the family. It is beside the point how people react. It is the family's right, they deserve to know the truth. I know how I would feel."
The Wottons were remanded to appear in court on March 10.