Activist remains defiant
Margaret Wenham

ABORIGINAL activist Murrandoo Yanner was yesterday sticking to his guns over the Palm Island airfares saga, saying the Government had covered his and Bradley Foster's travel expenses yesterday.

And he said it was no skin off his nose that it had done so, despite his decision to not travel to the island yesterday with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister Liddy Clark.

Mr Yanner denied the subject of reimbursement had even been raised during the meetings earlier this week he and Mr Foster – spokesman for the family of Cameron Doomadgee, who died in police custody on the island on November 19 – had with Ms Clark.

"There was no discussion about refunding the airfares," Mr Yanner said.

"My mission was to get her to go to Palm so the people there could talk to her about the issues they feel are important.

"Her offering to pay our airfares back up was no skin off my nose – it means there's more money for our mob back home."

Mr Yanner lashed out at Opposition and police union calls for Ms Clark to resign over the matter.

"It amazes and disgusts me that they come out now about $1000 in air fares, but they've said very little about the death of a man in custody," he said.

"All this energy and effort about this – it turns my stomach."

Mr Yanner said he and Mr Foster had met with Ms Clark on Carpentaria Land Council business – Mr Foster also being the CLC's chief executive officer – but Palm Island matters had also been discussed, with the pair encouraging Ms Clark to visit the island as soon as possible.

Asked why he had not gone over to Palm Island with the Minister and Mr Foster to meet with members of the Palm Island Council yesterday morning, he said he felt it inappropriate in the wake of the death of Cameron Doomadgee's elderly mother on Thursday.

"It was not appropriate for me to go if I was going to be in meetings," he said.

Mr Yanner called on the State Government to assist the Doomadgee family with legal expenses associated with the autopsy and forthcoming coronial inquest into the death of Mr Doomadgee.

Dominic Beckett, the family's lawyer, said he had written to Premier Peter Beattie two weeks ago seeking financial assistance for the family's involvement in the inquest.

"As at today's date I can't say there isn't going to be funding made available by the State Government, but neither are we able to say funding is available for either ourselves or the services of Dr Byron Collins," he said.

Dr Collins was the independent Victorian pathologist engaged by the family to observe and report on the second autopsy ordered by the State Coroner on November 29.

Mr Beckett said Dr Collins should be funded to fly to Palm Island to explain to the family the second autopsy process and so he could inspect the site of Cameron Doomadgee's death.

He said it was unlikely even if legal aid was granted to the family it would cover the inquest costs. "We think this is a very significant matter, warranting senior counsel's involvement for the family."

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