Doomadgee family still haunted by Palm Island death ten years onOn 01/31/2019 by admin
The community of Palm Island, 65 kilometres north east off the coast of Townsville in north Queensland, is still reeling from the death of Cameron Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, almost ten years after his death in police custody.
His sister Jane Doomadgee told Living Black the family had tried to come together in the wake of Cameron’s death.
“He was like our backbone of the family and we were backbone for him,” she said. “So we all help each other today we’re here to be strong for each other.”
Ten years have passed since Cameron was found dead in a cell in the Palm Island police station.
He’d suffered a cut above his right eye, four broken ribs, his portal vein had been ruptured and his liver was almost cleaved in two.
Jane said the tragic circumstances of his death at just 36 continued to haunt the family.
“We was all traumatised, shocked…all in shock,” she said.
He was arrested by Senior Sargent Chris Hurley, accompanied by the Indigenous liaison police officer Lloyd Bengaroo, and was taken into custody.
Forty minutes later, Cameron was found dead in his cell.
In the days that followed, family and locals were desperate for answers. A week later, the results of the autopsy report were made public by then-Mayor, Erykah Kyle.
It was then, after hearing about the extent of Cameron’s injuries, that the community became angry and a riot erupted.
Mayor Alf Lacey is still critical about the way in which the situation was handled.
“That type of incident in any community requires the proper authority to deal at that type of level, and I just feel that that Council was put in a very awkward situation.”
“Certainly as I said…the responsibility needs to be put in the government’s lap not the community’s lap.”
On the afternoon of the riot, a state of emergency was declared and 80 police officers including the tactical response group were called in to quell the situation.
The man accused of Cameron’s death, Senior Sargent Chris Hurley, was the first officer in Australian history to be charged over an Aboriginal death in custody.
He was charged with manslaughter and assault in February 2007, but four months later he was acquitted of the charges.
“It’s a way that the community get some sort of justice or support for all the past wrongs that happened at that particular time when it comes to the arrest,” Mr Wotton said.
Prominent Aboriginal human rights activist Professor Gracelyn Smallwood told Living Black she was hopeful that it would bring closure to the community.
“It’s not about money, it’s about justice and letting the world know the unresolved trauma is still there on Palm Island,” she said.
But while the community and its leaders of Palm Island commemorate the passing of Cameron Doomadgee they’re also determined to work towards a more positive future.
Meanwhile, Jane said the family would continue in its quest for justice.
“We can’t just give up now…we been through a lot and we need to keep on going,” she said.
“We know our children is our next generation and they have to be strong minded to push-push-push because I reckon we still really need to get justice.”