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Aborigine Killed in Custody, Whitewash Attempted, Cop Acquitted & Promoted, Elder to be Sentenced,..

category international | crime and justice | news report author Sunday November 02, 2008 20:42author by Ciaron O'Reilly - Dublin Catholic Worker Report this post to the editors

...Bravery Awards to be Handed Out, Jesus Wept!

I was born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The city evolved out of the brutal British penal colony of Moreton Bay. It was built on aboriginal genocide and Irish and other convict slavery. The original tribe that occupied the area had been totally liquidated before I got there!

When I was 8 years of age, aboriginal Australians were not citizens of Australia, they did not have the vote. When I was 11, the Queensland state government declared a "State of Emergency" to facilitate the racially selected South African Rugby team to play a game of footy in Brisbane. When I was 13, it was still illegal to cohabitate with a native under the Vagrancy Act, the specific Qld Black Acts were legislation ruling the aboriginal population and restricting their freedom. When I was 17, the state government suspended civil liberties to faciltate the extraction and export of uranium from traditional aboriginal lands.

When I was 22 I went to jail for the first time as a political prisoner - 30% of the jail population in the state were aborigine. There is still not one aboriginal police officer in the state (they had one in the '80's but he was driven out by the imbeded culture of racism in the force!), aboriginal death in custody at the hands of cops and screws were/are not unusual. I have been in custody twice when aboriginal prisoners were killed by staff violence or set up, on another occasion I was in population for the predictable suicide of a minor from Groot on the youth wing. I was at Sunday mass in South Brisbane when police killed Daniel Yock only a few streets away. I find myself at 48 with not much changing back at home when it comes to the death of aboriginal prisoners in custody, bureaucatic cover ups, acquitted authority, colonial bravery awards handed out, essential oppression remaining unaddressed.

In 2005 Snr. Sgt. Hurley became the first police officer, to be charged with an aboriginal death in custody in the history of the state of Queensland following the killing of Mulrunji Doomadgee in Palm Island watchhouse. After several years of fully paid leave while awaiting trial on manslaughter charges (at which he was acquitted) Snr Sgt Hurley has since received a promotion, and is now an Inspector of police working on the Gold Coast. He received a $100,000 compensation payout from the Queensland Government for property lost in the fire, and his legal bills were covered by the Queensland Police Union, and fundraising efforts by QPS members.

Last week, Palm Island local councilor Lex Wotton was found guilty by an all-white Brisbane jury of 'rioting with destruction'. Wotton was convicted in Brisbane in relation to the events in which a police station, adjoining courthouse, a police residence and a vehicle were destroyed by fire that followed attempted white cover up of the killing of Mulrunji Doomadgee. Doomadgee was a 36-year-old Palm Island man who had been arrested for "public nuisance" by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, the officer-in-charge of the Palm Island police station. Within an hour of his arrest, Mulrunji lay dead on the floor of a police cell, a victim of massive internal injuries, including a ruptured spleen, four broken ribs and a liver that had been 'almost cleaved in two' from a huge compressive force.

A subsequent coronial inquest found that Snr Sgt Hurley was responsible for the death. It also uncovered numerous breaches of procedures by Queensland Police in the ensuing investigation.

The community erupted on November 26 - a week to the day after the death - after they were told at a town meeting than a pathologist's report had found Mulrunji's death was "an accident".

Palm Island Councilor Lex Wotton is presently imprisoned in Queensland being transferred from Brisbane to Townsville for sentencing this coming Friday. In the same week, back in Brisbane, 22 members of the Qld Police Riot Squad will receive "bravery awards" for arresting Lex during their militarised occupation of Palm in the aftermath the uprising that followed the initial cover up of the killing of Mulrunji Doomadgee. Police claim local councilor Lex Wotton led the riot and he was arrested while his children were present by armed police with dogs at 4am in the morning. He has since been found guilty for 'rioting with destruction'. Wotton's lawyers claim he was the one who called off the riots so police could escape unharmed. He is now being held in custody and awaits sentencing this coming Friday November 7th, in Townsville.
Jesus wept!

Ciaron O'Reilly
Dublin, Ireland

Report from Brisbanehttp://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/come-on-p...this/

"Free Lex Wotton" Petition
http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/free-lex-...tion/

Photo - Solidairty Demonstration Brisbanehttp://sydney.indymedia.org.au/image/free-lex-wotton-ra...sbane

Solidarity Demonstration Aotearoa (NZ)
http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71990/index.php...mment

Related Link: http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/free-lex-wotton-petition/
author by Crikeypublication date Sun Nov 02, 2008 23:42author address australiaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

The question the state of Queensland should be asking itself today is this: is Lex Wotton a danger to society?

The answer is that if Queensland Police stop killing black men in custody, and trying to cover it up, then Lex Wotton is no threat to anyone.

Not that it matters much. Late on Friday, Wotton was convicted of the offence of "rioting with destruction" following the November 2004 uprising on Palm Island. He is now in custody, awaiting sentencing on November 7 in Townsville District Court.

The scale of this injustice is hard to comprehend, and even harder to describe. So I won't even try. I'll just stick to the facts -- the black and white of the issue.

These are the injuries sustained by black people at the hands of police in the days and months immediately surrounding the death in custody, and the uprising: Mulrunji Doomadgee suffered four broken ribs, a ruptured spleen a torn portal vein and a liver "almost cleaved in two" (it was held together by a couple of blood vessels). After his death, Mulrunji's son Eric hung himself from a tree on Palm Island. The man who lay in the cell next to Mulrunji and comforted him as he died -- Patrick Nugent -- has also taken his own life. In the course of his arrest, Lex Wotton was tasered, as was a second Aboriginal man.

Article continued in full...........

http://www.crikey.com.au/Politics/20081027-The-black-an....html

Related Link: http://www.crikey.com.au/Politics/20081027-The-black-and-white-of-a-Palm-Island-tragedy-.html
author by youtube melb solidaritypublication date Mon Nov 03, 2008 07:47author address Melbourne, Australiaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Youtube Speeches and March footage from Nov 1st. Solidarity Rally in Melbourne
(One of the speeches at the rally is posted in full as a separate video

(9mins:49sec)
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=J11cIXMKRhs
(4 mins - 1 speech)
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=NTVY5MPLGQ0&feature=related

author by freelexwottonpublication date Tue Nov 04, 2008 13:40author address australiaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Free Lex Wotton website

http://freelexwotton.blogspot.com/

Related Link: http://freelexwotton.blogspot.com/
author by 6 year sentencepublication date Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

News coming through that Lex Wotton was sentenced today (10 hours ahead) in Townsville, Queensland, Australia to 6 years imprisonment.

Check his website above or bush telegraph over the next couple of days for reports

author by Ciaronpublication date Sun Nov 09, 2008 20:14author address Brisbane, Queensland, Australiaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Aboriginal elder and Palm Island Councilor Lex Wotten has been sentenced to six years.
What follows is a short history of Palm Island used as a concentration camp by white colonisers as different aborigines were taken form tradional lands on the mainsland.
Also a link to an eyewitness report of the Lex Wotten trial that took place in Brisbane recently (1200 miles south of Palm). Lex was transferred to Townsville (1200 miles north of Brisbane/ on the mainland relatively near Palm Island) to be sentenced to 6 years last Friday.

A short history of Palm Island 1914 -1999 from the website of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action
(FAIRA)

The history of the Queensland Aboriginal reserve system from its foundation in 1898 was characterised by a largely incompetant and dishonest administration which acted with a blatant disregard to basic human rights.

Of the many Aboriginal reserves set up across Queensland, Palm Island in particular gained a reputation as a “punishment place”, a reputation which still lingers today.

Before white invasion in North Queensland, Palm Island belonged to the Manbarra people. Descendants of the Manbarra were still living on the tropical island, 65 km NE. of Townsville, when in 1914 the Queensland Government gazetted the Island as a reserve.
No further action was taken by the Government until 1918 when a cyclone flattened the Hull River Aboriginal Reserve near Tully. The Queensland Protector, J.W. Bleakley, then decided that Palm Island would become the replacement site. He regarded the location as an ideal place to confine Aboriginal and Islander people who were regarded by white society as “problem cases” and “uncontrollables.”

Over the next two decades around 1630 people from 40 different Aboriginal groups across Queensland were removed by the Department and deposited on the Island.

Removal to Palm Island was the heaviest punishment a Department officer could legally administer. In charge of the new reserve settlement was an ex-army captain, Robert Curry, a man with no previous administrative experience.

From the start the settlement was underfinanced, with the residents of the island surviving on meagre rations and living in complete poverty. Leprosy and venereal disease spread through the settlement and the doctors appointed to the island were less than competent in their approach to medicine.

No inspections of Palm Island were made by the Department until the Governor of Queensland, Donald Thatcher visited in 1923 and was critical of the squalid living conditions he observed.

This quickly led to a visit by the Protector, Bleakley but no real improvement in conditions occurred. Administrator Robert Curry continued to feud with the other white staff on the Island. Gradually he succumbed to the combined effects of alcoholism and mental illness and in February 1930 he went on a destructive rampage, killing his own children and torching several buildings before he was shot by one of his own Aboriginal staffers.

As was the case on all Queensland reserves, the residents of Palm Island were subject to strict supervision. Conditions were jail-like. No one could leave the Island without the superintendant’s permission and he had the power to censor all outgoing mail.

Speaking Aboriginal languages was forbidden. Employment opportunities were limited and the wages earned by Aboriginal workers were ‘managed’ and misappropriated by the Department. Despite this high level of enforced control, poor health conditions continued to prevail. In 1957 a series of incidents involving the staff treatment of Aboriginal women and a decision by the Department to cut wages, led to a strike by the residents.

The Department responded by expelling 25 identified ringleaders of the resistance, and their families, from the island. A second strike occurred in 1974 when the Department sacked the local Community Council and threatened to turn control of the Island over to the Townsville City Council.

The Department finally relinquished control of the Island in 1985 when title for the Island was passed to the Community Council in the form of a DOGIT. (Deed of Grant in Trust.)
While this gave the residents a greater say in the administration of the island, the transfer of title led to the removal of much of the Government infrastructure. Soon after the decision was made, barges arrived and houses, shops, the timber mill and farming equipment were disassembled and shipped back to the mainland.

Like many remote communities, Palm Island today continues to grapple with social problems including high unemployment, alcohol abuse and crime, a direct legacy of 80 years of mismanagement by the Queensland Government.

Eyewitness of the trial by longtime Brisbane activist Ian Curr...

http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/free-lex-...-5542

The Bush Telegraph website was set up and used a lot by Brisbane activists who came through the late 70's when civil liberties were suspended for several years in the state of Queensland and perscution of peace, justice, and aboriginal activists was esclated. Besides a lot of the unresolved conflicts played out it is a good source of info on the present scene in Queensland, Austraia, where last week Aboriginal Elder Lex Wotten has just been sentenced to six years following the police killing of an aboriginal resident on Palm Island 2004

Related Link: http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/free-lex-wotton/#comment-5542
author by Map Palm Islandpublication date Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:14author address Queensland, Australiaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

On this link you will find a map of Palm Island and a report prepared for the state government of Queensland by NGO F.A.I.R.A.
(Foundation of Aboriginal and Islander Association)

http://www.kalkadoon.org/index.php/2006/02/24/palm-island/

Related Link: http://www.kalkadoon.org/index.php/2006/02/24/palm-island/
author by John T.publication date Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just a few corrections to above comment

FAIRA - Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action.

They did not write a report for the state government, they wrote the info sheet reproduced above.

Kalkadoon.org did not write a report for the state government, they wrote a report on Housing for the Queensland Greens - on this link
http://www.kalkadoon.org/index.php/palm-island-housing-...port/

The report to the Queensland government was written by lawyer, Scott McDougal on behalf of the Palm Island Council
http://antarqld.org.au/pdf/palmislandfuturedirections.pdf

author by Yellow Haired Ladypublication date Wed Nov 12, 2008 00:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Having spent sometime in Australia recently, I was glad to see that the attitudes to aboriginals are changing, all be it too slowly. The young people are increasingly beginning to see that the aboriginals are an integral part of society. This is in part due to people such as Sam Watson, The O'Reilly boys and many other brave campaigners, who have tirelessly fought for Aboriginal rights.

Fight on my friends. Your road may be a long and arduous one, but your reward will be plentiful.

God Bless

author by youtubepublication date Wed Nov 12, 2008 01:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Free Lex Wotton International day of action November 7th (Images/Music Clip 3.42)
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHxMxxDqB30

Free Lex Wotton NOW - Solidarity on Wurundjeri Land 7 November 2008 (Rally Clip 8 mins)
http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=O6DtPsuy2PE

Related Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHxMxxDqB30
author by Ciaron - Catholic Worker/ Ploughsharespublication date Wed Nov 12, 2008 09:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm convinced from personal experience in hostile prison environments that letters or postcards from around the world to Lex will have a positive effect on morale and staff attitude.

A simple postcard will suffice. A recent book on Nelson Mandella posted to Lex was refused by prison authorities, so they don't sound
too progressive up there in Townsville - a military town with a reputation for racism (recently a group photo of diggers in Ku Klux Klan outfits with aboriginal soldiers seated in the front row made the mainstream media!)

So as the case in all prisons your correspondence will be read by prison staff, so don't write anything that could further endanger Lex.

* Note the correct spelling of his name when addressing the correspondence...

Lex Wotton
(prisoner)
Townsville Correctional Centre
PO Box 5574 ,
Townsville
Qld 4810
AUSTRALIA

General tips on writing to prisonersfrom trident Ploughshares website
http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article1121

Related Link: http://www.tridentploughshares.org/article1121
author by Releasedpublication date Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lex Wotton to be released on parole but banned from speaking to media or attending public meetings

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/palm-isla...72320

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