Originally published in the National Indigenous Times, February 2007.
By Amy McQuire with AAP
AUSTRALIAN history was made earlier this week after the man at the centre of the death in custody of a Palm Island man was finally charged over the death.
On Monday, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was charged in the Brisbane Supreme Court with the manslaughter and assault of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee, who died in police custody in 2004.
It is the first time in Australian history a police officer has ever been charged over the death in custody of an Aboriginal person.
The news broke on Monday this week, the same day a Queensland Police Union (QPU) rally in support of Snr Sgt Hurley was being staged in Nambour, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Around 250 officers attended the rally, as well as Snr Sgt Hurley’s brother, Snr Sgt Tony Hurley.
The meeting was one of many that have been held in the past month in support of Snr Sgt Hurley, with Queensland police speaking out against the state government’s level of resources in Aboriginal communities.
The officers at the Nambour rally carried a vote of no confidence in Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and blamed him for the leaking of a report to Brisbane’s The Courier Mail.
The independent 12-page report was conducted by Sir Laurence Street and criticised Queensland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare’s findings that the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee was a “tragic accident”.
The report also recommended that Snr Sgt Hurley be charged, prompting Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine to use special powers to issue the proceedings.
But the QPU remains unbowed, and claims to be gathering public support.
QPU vice-president Denis Fitzpatrick said momentum was continuing to build and the union had been inundated by calls and emails of support from the public who had also given money to a fund for Snr Sgt Hurley’s legal bills.
The QPU’s stance in support of Snr Sgt Hurley is at odds with the Indigenous community, who have campaigned for Snr Sgt Hurley to be charged in relation to Mulrunji’s death for over a year.
Last month’s Australia Day proceedings were celebrated in a different way by the Brisbane Indigenous community when they launched an Invasion Day protest citing justice for Mulrunji.
At the time of press, Queensland police were still threatening to march on State Parliament later today (February 8).
• As news comes to hand, NIT will keep you updated on the planned police march on State Parliament via our website, http://www.nit.com.au. We’ll also be posting regualr updates on the other issues surrounding the death of Mulrunji.