Townsville Church concern over Palm Island decision

Townsville Church leaders are concerned about the impact on Indigenous communities of the decision not to prosecute a Queensland police officer over the death of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee.

The Catholic Leader reports that Townsville diocese's newly formed Indigenous Catholic Council had just finished its first meeting with Bishop Michael Putney on 14 December when they heard the news Queensland's director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, had decided not to charge the police officer involved in the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in November 2004.

The Council says that as a result of history and often their own personal experience, Indigenous people often found it hard to trust the legal processes.

In September, Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements ruled Senior-Sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for the death of the 36-year-old, who died from internal bleeding from a ruptured liver and portal vein.

However, Ms Clare said Mulrunji died from a "tragic fall" and the evidence was not capable of proving Snr Sgt Hurley was criminally responsible for his death.

Meanwhile, the executive secretary of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission, Graeme Mundine, said the decision not to prosecute the police officer would be difficult for fair-minded Australians to accept.

Mr Mundine said the contradictory decisions in no way clarified the culpability of the officer in Mulrunji's death and raised many more doubts about due process in the case.

According to the Courier-Mail the Doomadgee family will pursue a Supreme Court review of the Director of Public Prosecutions' decision not to prosecute the Senior-Sergeant.

As more than 1,000 protesters rallied and marched in Brisbane yesterday, lawyer Andrew Boe said the family was being forced to take the step as a last resort.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma added that he shared the Doomadgee family's "outrage at the failures of the Queensland authorities to provide justice".

He said that Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare overstepped the mark in describing Mulrunji Doomadgee's death as a "tragic accident" and was unable to deliver justice because the initial police investigation was flawed.

Mr Calma, who launched the Australian bishops' social justice statement in September, called on the "urgent" and "direct intervention" of Queensland Premier Peter Beattie.

Fears for indigenous

Family may cross border (Courier Mail, 21/12/06)

DPP's accident call 'not hers to make (The Australian, 21/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council
Townsville diocese

Commission supports Palm Island Community (CathNews, 8/12/04)
Nun sees African-style fear in Palm Islanders (CathNews, 30/11/04)

21 Dec 2006