Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Okay, I'm not so sick that I can't be disgusted.

In 2004, an Aboriginal man whose name I won't mention (because it is considered disrespectful within that culture to mention the dead by name) died in police custody on Palm Island.

The senior sergeant involved was the first police officer in Australian history to actually be brought to trial for an Aboriginal death in custody. That is despite the fact that Indigenous deaths in custody are so common that we had a Royal Commission into the issue some years ago.

Palm Island is one of the most troubled Aboriginal communities in Australia. This particular man was arrested for public drunkenness (witnesses dispute that he was drunk) and was dead within one hour of being taken into police custody. At some point, he suffered four broken ribs and a blow that split his liver and he died.

During the pathetic inquiry into the man's death, the sergeant involved picked up the two investigating officers who were flown in, both former colleagues and friends, and they shared a meal and a beer. All very cosy, don't you think?. Then he got to discuss the case further with his various friends in the police force while the inquiry was under way.

I grew up in the Northern Territory, where there are many Indigenous people and we played together as kids. I was oblivious to the way they were treated by white society. But when I lived in Western Australia in the 1990s, I woke up a bit when a young man died in custody and 18 police officers refused to give evidece on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves.

I rejoiced when that sergeant was finally put on trial. I honestly thought the case was pretty clear. People who haven't been assaulted don't usually end up with broken ribs and a ruptured liver within one hour of arrest, do they?

But now the court has found that he was innocent all the time! Hundreds of Aboriginal people have died in custody (more than one hundred since that Royal Commision) and yet only once police officer has been tried and he was acquitted.

I am truly disgusted. There is no justice.


Blogger Lady Let said...

Indeed, I do find it very difficult to believe in justice too.

South America was oppresed under dictatorial regims for decades. In 1984 and after a painfully long process we were able to gain our democracy back. I am ashamed that the law in my country has never judged the dictators and military involved in this atrocity. Our people can not (and must not) forget and can not forgive either. The wound is still open and bleeding. And I don't think it could ever heal until we could see some justice is done. A society that forgets is condemned to commit the same mistakes again.

7:56 AM  
Blogger oldbear said...

HIEmily, even with the knowledge of the "white Australia" policy its still hard to believe ho wbad it might be for non whites in Aus.

I guess in a way they face a combination of the ignorance and hatred that some folks here feel for "Blacks", coupled withe the bad feelings towards "injuns".

I am VERY pro-cop in general, but am Chicano enough to kno wmnay good peeps who have been rousted by the cops . Including me.

Different justice for the non wealthy and non white. Anywhere in the developed world!

Sorry you had to see that. sorrier it hapeens atg all.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Gillette said...

This is so utterly depressing.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Lickety Split said...


While I find your post as distressing as most people seem to, I would say...that for better or worse, that true judgment comes from a higher power.

I am not saying that reform is not needed. People should not die in police custody. I learned my lesson on the judicial system with the case of O.J. Simpson here in the US. The DNA evidence showed that O.J. was a match to the blood found at the scene. Some simple statistical math would show that only FIVE people in the WORLD could have that genetic sequence...and he was one. Of course, he was acquitted. The jury was too stupid to follow the science.

Emily, while you may be dismayed, you are not ignorant. Human Rights is still a burden that we all must strive to ensure. Kudos to you for at least being knowledgeable.

4:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home