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A change that was as good as a holiday

By Graham Ring - posted Friday, 23 February 2007

"Where else but Queensland?" was the well-intentioned inquiry of a recent publicity campaign designed to attract tourists from the south to the bars and beaches of the pointy state.

Keen observers of Indigenous affairs are now asking themselves the same question, as they watch a beleaguered Beattie Government stagger from one crisis to the next.

Mulrunji Doomadgee lost his life in the Palm Island police lock-up on November 19, 2004, where he was being held on the relatively trivial charge of public nuisance. Queensland's Deputy Coroner Christine Clements found that Mulrunji died of injuries inflicted by Senior Sergeant, Chris Hurley.


The fall-out from this tragic and needless death has shattered relationships between the Beattie Government and Queensland's Indigenous communities.

In the wake of a shock announcement by Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, that Hurley had no charge to answer, Premier Beattie has become the ringmaster of an unedifying public circus.

The government initially cited the independence of the DPP and said they wouldn't interfere. Then the Attorney General Kerry Shine wrote to the DPP saying that a review of the decision would be “strongly supported” by the Premier.

Clare was unmoved, and said so, but the next day Shine revealed the DPP's “unexpected offer” to provide him with the file so that the matter could be reviewed.

The government then announced that retired judge Pat Shanahan would conduct the review. However Shanahan stood down only days later when it emerged that he had been part of the panel which appointed Clare as DPP.

Now Sir Laurence Street has provided a report to the Attorney-General saying that there is sufficient evidence to charge Senior Sergeant Hurley with the manslaughter of Mulrunji. It seems likely that a jury will determine the matter in an open, public courtroom and that justice may yet be seen to be done.


The tone for the Beattie Government's administration of Indigenous Affairs was set initially by their ponderous and parsimonious response to the stolen wages scandal: it's taken them far too long to do not very much.

Then in March 2005, Liddy Clark fell on her sword as Minister for Indigenous Affairs after one of her advisors accompanied her on a visit to a dry Cape York community with a bottle of wine.

Long time Premier, Peter Beattie, is very good at wining elections and his crushing victory in the September 2006 poll surprised no-one.

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First published in the National Indigenous Times in Issue 122, on February 8, 2007.

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About the Author

Graham Ring is an award-winning writer and a fortnightly National Indigenous Times columnist. He is based in Alice Springs.

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