The Coroner’s report into the death of an Aboriginal man, Mulrunji, in the Palm Island lockup in 2004 has found that his death was the result of a bashing by the police officer in charge of the station. Since the case may result in a criminal prosecution, I don’t intend to discuss issues of guilt or innocence in relation to Mulrunji’s death.

What is clear as a result of the case is that the system failed in all sorts of respects. The initial police investigation was a farce, with the investigators having dinner with the office under investigation, and other aspects were no better. Even in the absence of criminal charges, there’s more than enough in the coroner’s report to suggest that the officer should be stood down until the matter is fully resolved.

More importantly, the government seems to have done very little to implement the recommendations of the 1991 inquiry into deaths in custody and, by inaction, has let things go backwards putting at risk the modest gains of the 1990s. The dismissive attitude of Police Minister Judy Spence along with the government’s post-election decision (not mentioned in the campaign) to scrap the Indigenous Policy portfolio, suggests that things are only going to get worse.

There aren’t any easy answers to the problems of drunkenness and crime in Aboriginal communities. But that’s not a reason for ignoring those problems, and letting things slide back to the worst days of the past.

33 thoughts on “Mulrunji

  1. Yes.
    Actually Hal 9000, this is a useful old double-dipping trick that has gone on since Jeremiah played second row for Damascus. Give a someone a hiding, then charge them for abusive language to explain the assault. Two stings in
    one hit, so to speak and subject matter for laughs later, with mates over a beer or twenty. Good ol’ “Aussie values”!
    Katz, sorry. I agree with so much of what you say. I am well aware of the arguments that account for indigenes in settler societies as (usually) victims and accept these as unfortunately all too obviously true, as born out by the evidence and patterns of evidence.
    You will only gain wreckage out of wreckage, which is usually all that is left apat from grief and trauma, after western impact on prior civilizations. I also comprehensively DETEST opportunist creatures like Brunton, by the way.
    But I can’t quite feel convinced at what’s being said here, as to Hookes. This is for the same reason I don’t like seeing rapists, drunk drivers and thugs responsible for mob beatings that leave victims maimed or even dead walking away with bonds, when the evidence indicates something has occured warranting an altogether more concerted response.

  2. “It’s about values and the softcock, girlieman policies we’ve had for a number of decades …”

    You really don’t get what democracy, liberty and the rule of law mean, do you observa? You really believe that thinking with your balls is a virtue, not a vice. I’d give that mindset its correct name except that I don’t want people invoking Godwin’s Law.

    Just a hint for you: you’re not tough on crime unless you’re tough on official crime too.

  3. It amazes me how fast right-wingers manage to tie everything into Muslim fundamentalists these days.

    In three posts we have gone from the preventable death of an aboriginal man with his liver split in half on a small island in Northern Qld, to the Whitlam government and “Islamofascists” or whatever catchy term you would like to throw about today (ironic, given that Observa and Muslim fundamentalist would seem to have a lot in common…).

    What I would don’t get is why you bother reading posts – and blogs – like this Observa. You’re clearly not here to be informed, or inform; is the seething outrage you feel at our pinko commie orgies really worth it?

    Be careful, “boyoh”, you will give yourself an ulcer – better than a ruptured liver I’ll grant, but judging by the standard of your racist screeds that may not be so far away anyway.

  4. I would like to take up a minor point of J.Q.’s article….

    “there aren’t any easy answers to the problems of drunkenness and crime in Aboriginal communities”.

    I do not think this is true. In fact I think the opposite is true. There are basic solutions, obvious to, and articulated by leaders in all Aboriginal communities, relevent to their own situation and preferences. The problem is these basic solutions are ignored and often villified by governments who continue to pour crisis funding into programs that are dysfunctional.

    Circle sentincing and restorative justice is one such simple basic and obvious element of a solution. Instead we get another bureacratic review of the Royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.

    The provision of detox and rehab programs would be another. There is a handfull of token institutional programs in Nth Qld. with massive waiting lists. If all alcoholics had access to community programs just like white society then things would improve.

    The inherent failure of the A.A. model because of its guilt base rather than health base is institutionalised in Qld’s racist prohibition laws such as what Murunji was arrested under. (I might remind people that his “offensive language” was a satirical rendition of “who let the dogs out?”)

    What percentage of people who are referred to A.A. actually give up drinking? Less than 10% in mainstream society I understand (please correct me if I am wrong), so why would such a model that fails in mainstream society be considered relevent for Aboriginal society? Especially since it has been the only focus of Qld.s indigenous policy for at least 4 years.

    The late Oodgeroo Noonuccal used to say that the solution to Aboriginal alcoholism is a jobs. She meant daily lifestyle as well as the economic aspect.

    The following is one successfull experiment in a community health mode of acute alcoholism treatment, there are many others. It suggests that the time for healing is before someone hits the bottom, and through family intervention even if it is resisted by the individual. it tackles the issue as a family/community/environment issue and therefore must be tackled as such, not as individual disease. The A.A. model depends on an individual hitting the bottom before finding an individual path to recovery.

    Child abuse
    More housing in Aboriginal communities would mean less over crowding which means less drunken horny adults sharing sleeping areas with children. A basic protection from child abuse – a private room for kids.

    The reason problems fester in Aboriginal communities is because paradigms that have been proven to fail are entrenched, not because another paradigm will not work.

    simple solutions for simple problems – just lots of them.

    It is a matter of lack of will not lack of options.

  5. I’ve no doubt John Tracey is right on the community vs individual basis of the problem. The complexity seems to lie not so much in the ‘what solutions’ but in the ‘how to do it’? For example, what kind of decent and sustainable jobs might be created in places like Palm Island and Wadeye?

  6. Rally and March
    Justice for Mulrinji
    Stop black deaths in Custody
    Rally 10am, Tues Oct 10, Queens Park Brisbane
    (Cnr Elizabeth and George Sts)
    March to State Parliament.

  7. Justice for Mulrunji,

    I was listening with disbelieve to the QLD DPP’s declaration on the 14th of December 2006.

    That her dissuasion is on Doctors opinion, that “Mulrunjis death was from a fall� I can believe that a person folioing 10 metres and would have his liver almost in two not to mention the rest of Mulrunjis injuries on his death.

    This injustice can not be tolerated that this Polisman will not even face the courts and at least the full story could be tolled and cross examined before the courts to decide the guilt or incense when a death accrues at the police station.

    I urge dissent people in Australia to stand up for justice for all.

  8. I applaud you all for contributing to this debate. It brings forward a compelling argument that we should be more involved in what ails our society and what we could possibly do to educate more people in what do about it. The coroner’s inquest was quite clear in its findings and involved many credentialed people educated in matters of the Law. The findings did not suit the Police Union who set about denigrating the Coroner, by insult. As it was a Court convened under the Queensland Judicial System, that criticism should have brought a swift response of contempt of Court. When it did not it merely emboldens those who want to treat us all with contempt. The findings were quite clear in what the Coroners Court heard and subsequently reported on. There is no doubt in my mind that, Sgt. Hurley should be charged with an offence of some description and brought to trial by Jury. There are a number of options available to the DPP. Trials by Jury serve several purposes, the main one being that our society should live in the security of knowledge that any alleged indictable crime will be brought before us, ergo a selected Jury, for judgment and not left in the hands of a politician or a public servant, e.g. the DPP. Such trials should not be open to criticism, and as we know, the Judiciary has the power to punish contempt of our system. The defendant has the right to defend themselves and go free or is punished, thus settling the matter and above all, it serves the interests of the victims and the people when they see Justice being done.

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