Pan Africanism : Island of Lost Souls - Australia's Palm Island

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Destee, Jul 23, 2006.

  1. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

    Country:
    United States
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2001
    Messages:
    34,792
    Likes Received:
    8,984
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    betwixt and between
    Ratings:
    +9,684
    Island of Lost Souls - Australia's Palm Island

    It is already the most dangerous place in the world outside a conflict zone, but the death of a man in custody has pushed Australia's Palm Island to breaking point. Chloe Hooper reports

    Sunday July 23, 2006

    Palm Island's breeze-block air-shelter is decorated with a collection of the local fourth-graders' projects on safe and unsafe behaviour: 'I feel safe when I'm not being hunted,' one project reads. The island, in the far northeast of Australia, lies between the coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. The World Heritage classified reef with its luxury island resorts is, as the advertising slogan goes, 'beautiful one day, perfect the next'. But no one would want to holiday here. Palm Island (pop 3,000) is home to one of the country's largest Aboriginal communities and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, is the most dangerous place on earth outside a combat zone.

    Two black men in their early thirties are stumbling around, leaning on each other. 'They're brothers,' a local tells me. 'They're blind.'

    I assume she means blind drunk. One of the brothers then shakes out a white cane and my heart nearly stops. How did they go blind? I ask. 'Nobody knows.' The men are connected with string: the man with the cane holds the string leading his brother through their dark maze by the wrist.

    I am travelling with two lawyers. Two months earlier, a drunk Aboriginal man was arrested for swearing at police. Less than an hour later he died with injuries like those of a road-trauma victim. The police claimed he tripped on a step. The community didn't agree and burnt down the police station. The lawyers are here to represent pro bono the Palm Island community in the state government's inquest into the man's death.

    The island's chairwoman, wearing a hat crocheted with the Aboriginal flag, collects us from the airstrip and drives us into town along an old road fringing the water. In the township there is a jetty, a beer canteen, a hospital, a long-broken clock tower and one store. Outside the store a child sits in a rubbish bin while another child cools him with a fire hose.

    Two white women (teachers, or nurses, or police) are walking briskly in shorts and T-shirts. They look as out of place as I feel. 'Who are they?' I ask the chairwoman. 'Strangers,' she says.

    In 1916 the island was, to the government official designated Chief Protector of Aborigines, 'the ideal place for a delightful holiday'. The surrounding shark-infested waters also made it 'suitable for use as a penitentiary'. From 1918, Aborigines were sent to the Palm Island Mission in leg irons, deemed variously: 'a troublesome character'; 'a larrikin'; 'a wanderer'; 'a communist'. Usually they had made the mistake of asking about their wages, or practising traditional ceremonies. In its isolation, the mission became increasingly authoritarian - a kind of tropical gulag with all the arbitrary abuse of power that term implies.

    Blacks were not allowed on Mango Avenue where white staff lived. Blacks were required to salute any white person they passed. Whites got choice cuts of meat: blacks got bones. At the cinema, whites sat on chairs carried by black servants, blacks sat on blankets. Permits were needed to fish or to swim. There were garden competitions and European dancing, and those who did not participate were questioned by police. A brass band learnt to play jazz and marching tunes, but failure to attend band practice could result in a jail sentence. Even in the Sixties, a man could be arrested for waving to his wife, or for laughing. A teenager whose cricket ball broke off a short length of branch could spend the night locked up.

    In the Seventies, when it became legal for Aborigines to drink alcohol, Palm Island opened a canteen selling beer. For people long used to intense subjugation, it was an opportunity to be literally 'out of control'. It also unleashed a violence that had always been under the surface. Despite evidence that the grouping together of different tribes could be disastrous, over 40 different tribes with incompatible territorial, language and kinship ties were sent to Palm Island. It is now a study of dysfunction taken to its ultimate degree: the island has 92 per cent unemployment; more than half the men will die before the age of 45; 16 young people have committed suicide in eight months. The police, far from being seen as saviours, are the focus of great suspicion and often hatred.

    The chairwoman drops the lawyers and me at the community 'motel': a series of spotless rooms with barred windows and no apparent overseer. The motel is next to the locked police compound. Through the high cyclone-wire fence, I can see a group of police in a mess room playing pool with some of the nurses. Two officers drive up and park their van, before heaving an old mattress over the windscreen to protect it from the nightly barrage of rocks.

    19 November 2004 must have looked like another grindingly banal day. Shortly after 10am, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, 33, the island's officer in charge, and Lloyd Bengaroo, the Aboriginal police liaison officer, were escorting Gladys Nugent, a big, gentle-looking woman, to collect insulin from her partner's fridge. She needed the escort because her partner, Roy Bramwell, had just beaten her.

    Hurley waited on Dee Street, where every second house has broken windows, graffiti, children playing in the trash. This was Hurley's natural environment. He had spent most of his career working in Far North Queensland's Aboriginal communities: Thursday Island, Aurukun, Kowanyama, Bamaga, Cooktown, Laura, Pormpuraaw, Doomadgee, and Burketown. All hot, despairing, impoverished places with chronic alcoholism and violence.

    Lloyd Bengaroo was in his late fifties, overweight and overburdened. A police liaison officer is meant to work with police, representing the interests of the community, but to many Aborigines Bengaroo didn't convince in the role. He was seen as a police 'watchdog' or 'errand boy' and wasn't much liked or respected.

    While the two men waited, Gladys's nephew, Patrick - drunk and high from sniffing petrol - started calling them '******* queenie cunts'. Hurley arrested him. Bengaroo held the doors to the police van open.

    Cameron Doomadgee walked past. 'Bengaroo,' he said to the police aide, 'you black like me. Why can't you help - help the blacks?' To which Bengaroo replied, 'Keep walking or you be arrested, too.' Doomadgee, 36, a happy-go-lucky character who loved to hunt and fish, had been drinking cask wine and 'goom' - methylated spirits mixed with water. For all he'd drunk he was 'walking pretty good, staggering but not falling over'. He retreated, but when he was 20m away, turned and appeared to say something. Bengaroo didn't hear anything. Others, closer than Bengaroo, reckoned he was singing. But Chris Hurley heard something disrespectful and decided, at 10.20am, to arrest him for creating a public nuisance.

    What happened at the police station is disputed: as Doomadgee was taken from the van, he was 'going off, drunk, singing out and everything'. Struggling, he hit the Senior Sergeant on the jaw. Two witnesses say they saw Hurley punch Doomadgee back. In the doorway, the men tripped on a step and landed side by side. Hurley stood and pulled his prisoner into the hallway. He didn't, at the time, notice another Aboriginal man waiting to be questioned.

    Roy Bramwell, 29, had been brought into the police station to answer questions relating to the earlier assault of his partner, Gladys, and her two sisters. At the station, Roy says he watched as Chris Hurley dragged Cameron Doomadgee into the hallway: 'Chris laid him down here and started kicking him. All I could see [was] the elbow gone down, up and down, like that... "Do you want more Mister, Mister Doomadgee? Do you want more of these, eh, do you want more? You had enough?"'

    Roy's view was partially obscured by a filing cabinet, but he could see Doomadgee's legs sticking out. He claims he could see the fist coming down, then up, then down: 'I see knuckle closed.' Each time the fist descended he heard Doomadgee groan: 'Cameron, he started kicking around and [called] "Leave me go," like that, "now. Leave me go - I'll get up and walk."'

    But Roy says Hurley did not stop: 'Well, he tall, you know... Just see the elbow going up and him down like that, you know, must have punched him pretty hard, didn't he? Well, he was a sober man and he was a drunken man.'

    Doomadgee was then dragged into the cells. Moments later, Chris Hurley came back and Roy saw him rubbing his chin. He had a button undone. Roy says Hurley asked him if he had seen anything. He said no, and Hurley told him to leave. Roy went to get his social security cheque, along the way telling some friends: 'Chris Hurley getting into Cameron.' They told him, 'Go tell someone, tell the Justice Group.' But none of them did anything. They went on drinking.

    The cell's surveillance tape shows Doomadgee writhing on the concrete floor, trying to find a comfortable position in which to die. He can be heard calling, 'Help me!' Another man, paralytic with drink, feebly pats his head. Before he dies, Doomadgee rolls closer to him, perhaps for warmth or comfort. The camera is in a high corner and, from this angle, when Hurley and another officer walk in they look enormous. The officer kicks at Doomadgee - which in court is referred to as 'an arousal technique' - then leans over him, realising he is dead. At 11.22am Hurley called an ambulance. Three minutes later the ambulance crew arrived and determined that Cameron Doomadgee had been dead for at least 20 minutes. The tape records Hurley sliding down the cell wall with his head in his hands. Doomadgee had a black eye, four broken ribs and a liver almost cleaved in two. His injuries were so severe that even with instant medical attention he was unlikely to have survived.

    Elizabeth Doomadgee, Cameron's sister, is a handsome woman in her early forties with an almost stately quality. She does not have a telephone, and one evening before the inquest begins two lawyers and I drop by her house unannounced. Elizabeth invites us for dinner.

    We sit down at a table on the veranda that she covers with a purple batik cloth, and upon it she lays the household's best food: a large economy packet of biscuits; two bowls full of fruit. Small children use this opportunity to sidle up and eat freely. Ten-year-old Sylvia, Elizabeth's youngest child, tells me a secret: there is a plug on Palm Island, and if there were ever a war the elders could remove it so that the island would disappear. What would happen to all the people? I ask her. 'They'd swim,' she says, as if I must be crazy.

    The Doomadgees were sent to Palm Island in the mid-Fifties after their father, Arthur (a Gangalidda man) punched a missionary at Old Doomadgee, in the Gulf country of North Western Queensland. Doris, his wife - of the Wanyi people - had 10 children, of whom, Cameron's sister Jane tells me, 'only three are dead'. Five of the surviving sisters live on the island, and on the day Cameron was arrested Carol, the eldest, went to the police station 'to take feed for him'. Although her brother had been dead for two hours, Hurley turned her away, telling her to come back at 3pm. Later, in the afternoon, a policeman from the mainland visited the family. 'The detective had a red book with him,' Carol recalls, 'and he read it out to us telling us we lost Cameron.' Two weeks later, their mother died. Mothers, Elizabeth tells me, will always try to protect their sons: her mother was following Cameron to the afterlife to look after him.

    Click Here To Read The Entire Article

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  2. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

    Country:
    United States
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2001
    Messages:
    34,792
    Likes Received:
    8,984
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    betwixt and between
    Ratings:
    +9,684
    The Dark Side Of Australia's Palm Island

    If one then looks at the history of the island, one can see that this settlement was set up, ‘managed’ and left to flounder whilst the adjoining islands and surrounding areas, including Townsville, have prospered. From the beginning, the “management” of Palm Island has been flawed. It was a place to which Aboriginal people were sent as a form of punishment. It was built as an open prison and run with authoritarian rule. This has left scars on generation after generation. No-one could seriously dispute that. The treatment of Aboriginal people on the island should attract international censure. The history of Palm Island is a raw example of the failings of government policy in respect of Aboriginal people. An apology is pointless; what we need now is a genuine undertaking to right those wrongs.

    Click Here To Read Entire Article

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  3. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

    Country:
    United States
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2001
    Messages:
    34,792
    Likes Received:
    8,984
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    betwixt and between
    Ratings:
    +9,684
    Palm Island Naval AirBase

    Wartime History

    During WWII, there was a US Navy base and repair facilities located here, including slipway and hanger facilities. A repair base for the USN Fleet Air Wing 17 in mid-1943, that operated PBYs in New Guinea. At the end of the war, all the aircraft remaining there were sunk, bulldozed or rendered unserviceable and abandoned.

    Click Here For More

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  4. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

    Country:
    United States
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2001
    Messages:
    34,792
    Likes Received:
    8,984
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    betwixt and between
    Ratings:
    +9,684
    They Burned The Police Station and Courthouse Down!

    Hundreds of residents of the Aboriginal community of Palm Island, Australia, burned down the local police station, court building and the housing barracks of local police officers on November 26, 2004, after a coroner's report on the police custody death of island resident Mulrunji Doomadgee, a 36-year-old Aboriginal man, was read aloud to a community meeting.

    The report indicated that Mulrunji suffered four broken ribs, a ruptured liver and a ruptured portal vein during an arrest for public drunkenness. He died about an hour later in police custody. Witnesses reported seeing him being beaten. “I believe the same as everybody else on this island - that he was bashed to death in the cell,” declared Mulrunji’s 15-year-old son, Eric.

    Palm Island is the traditional territory of the Manberra people. It became a reserve in 1914, and was expanded as a sort of prison colony for Aboriginal peoples from across Australia in 1918, including mothers of mixed-blood children and Aboriginal convicts. No indigenous person was allowed to leave the Island without the government superintendent’s permission, a nightly curfew was imposed, and all outgoing mail could be censored. Speaking Aboriginal languages was forbidden.

    Click Here To Read The Entire Story

    :heart:

    Destee
     

    Attached Files:

  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Messages:
    19,252
    Likes Received:
    5,505
    Gender:
    Female
    Ratings:
    +5,560
    re: Cameron

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1018925/Family-appeals-Palm-Island-death-decision

    Family appeals Palm Island death decision
    25 May 2009 | 04:39:15 PM | Source: AAP

    [​IMG]
    Mulrunji Doomadjee's sisters are comforted by a friend after the 2007 decision to acquit Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley of manslaughter and assault over Doomadgee's death (AAP)

    A Queensland judge did not have the authority to set aside a coroner's findings into the death in custody of a Palm Island man, a court has been told.

    Townsville District Court Judge Bob Pack's decision in December to overturn the findings of Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements was scrutinised in the Court of Appeal in Brisbane on Monday.

    In 2006, Ms Clements found Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee after he was arrested for public nuisance.

    Death sparked riots

    His death sparked riots on the island after an autopsy showed he had suffered four broken ribs and a ruptured liver.

    In 2007, Snr Sgt Hurley was acquitted by a jury of manslaughter and assault charges over the death.

    At the conclusion of a review of the matter in Townsville late last year Judge Pack overturned Ms Clement's ruling and ordered the inquest to be reopened.

    Mr Doomadgee's family and the Palm Island Aboriginal Council announced in January they would fight to have Judge Pack's decision ruled invalid in the Court of Appeal.

    During the hearing on Monday, barrister Timothy Game, SC, argued Judge Pack had "misconceived the nature of the review" when he set aside Ms Clements' findings.

    Injuries 'not result of fall'

    "In our submission there was a perfectly orderly reasoning and process towards a finding that the injuries suffered did not occur in the course of the fall but was inflicted by Hurley in an assault against Mr Doomadgee," Mr Game said.

    However, Philip Morrison, QC, acting for Snr Sgt Hurley, said the evidence could not exclude an accidental death.

    "How could you make the finding of death by three punches when the unchallenged medical evidence before you was that three punches couldn't do it?" he said.

    The appeal will continue on Tuesday.
     
Loading...