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The Tall Man: Palm Island tragedy

By Kevin Rennie - posted Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Tall Man's story has now been documented as a book and a film. Chloe Hooper's 2008 non-fiction account is very personal as she was both a participant in, and witness to, much of the unfolding drama. It ranks with Anna Funder's Stasiland as one of the best non-fiction narratives by Australian authors in recent times. Whilst Tony Krawitz's 2011 documentary treads the same ground, it has a more impersonal, objective voice.

Both treatments are confronting, distressing and disturbing. The following are taken from earlier online posts that explored these attempts to understand Cameron Doomadgee's tragic death and the ongoing troubles of Palm Island.

The Tall Man Story Continues


It was pure coincidence that our book club was discussing Chloe Hooper's award winning The Tall Man last week. It is the account of the 2004 death in police custody of Cameron Doomadgee and the trail of Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley. The Inquest into the death has reopened on Queensland's Palm Island:

An inquest into the death held in 2005 concluded that Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley caused the fatal injuries.

He was found not guilty of manslaughter and assault in 2007.

Sergeant Hurley later appealed the original inquest findings and a district court judge ordered the inquest be reopened.

Doomadgee inquest reopens

Our club members are mostly in their thirties plus two baby boomers to add a bit of living history, sort of fiction fossils. In this case it was non-fiction. The general consensus was that Chloe has given a balanced account despite her closeness to the Doomadgee's family and legal team.

Andrew Bartlett, former Australian Democrats Senator and current Green's candidate has followed the tragic events:

It is well over five years since Mulrunji Doomagee died in police custody on Palm Island, his ribs broken and his liver nearly sliced in two. Previous coronial inquests and trials have wound a tortuous path, with various assertions about the cause of death ranging from the consequences of a "complicated fall" to suggestions Mulrunji's injuries were inflicted by a more direct methods. Palm Island Inquest Resumes (again)

He links to Monique Bond's blog about Palm Island, Monique's notes re Palm Island and other topics


She concludes her Background on the Mulrinji inquest 2006:

The Inquest cannot change the root causes of the problems on Palm Island. We can cooperate to improve the relationship between islanders and the police. However, unless the power balance changes so that the Islanders own the agenda and an attitude of mutual respect is insisted on, nothing will improve.

The background to this tragic story is very bleak:

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About the Author

Kevin Rennie is a retired secondary teacher, unionist and has been an Australian Labor Party member since 1972. He spent eight years teaching in the Northern Territory: four in Katherine, followed by four in Maningrida, an aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. Kevin lived in Broome from January 2007 to May 2008 and now lives in Melbourne. He blogs at Red Bluff, Labor View from Bayside and Cinematakes. He is also a Global Voices author.

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