Indigenous Law Bulletin
compiled by Jacqui Houston
The ethical standards unit of Queensland Police Service have reported that they do not expect to finalise their review of their 2004 investigation into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee in a Palm Island watch-house until at least March next year. The review, overseen by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, was delayed while Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley faced manslaughter and assault charges – of which he was acquitted – and will now be delayed by an application by Hurley to have the Coroner’s finding struck from the record.
Julian Burnside QC, who is appearing in the South Australian Civil Court for Bruce Trevorrow – the first Aboriginal person to be awarded damages by a court for being one of the stolen generation – has asked the court to consider adding 50 years’ interest onto the compensation amount. Mr Burnside has asked for the compensation to be backdated to the time at which Mr Trevorrow was taken as a child.
The Yuendumu Women’s Centre in central Australia is pushing to have takeaway sales of alcohol banned in Alice Springs for two days each week. Peggy Nampijinpa Brown says that the ban would slow the amount of alcohol making its way into communities. Alice Springs Mayor, Fran Kilgariff, says that council doesn’t believe that tougher alcohol restrictions will be accepted by the community. Another option put forward by the Centre is to make some types of alcohol more expensive through a minimum pricing structure.
The Ngurrara people of the southern Kimberley region in Western Australia (‘WA’) have been recognised as native title holders over approximately 76,000 square kilometres of land. The consent determination was delivered today by Justice John Gilmour of the Federal Court. The determination recognises the exclusive right of the Ngurrara people to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land. The ‘flowing and underground waters’ are also covered by the determination to the extent of the right to hunt, fish and conduct other traditional activities.
The head of the Taskforce implementing the Commonwealth’s intervention into Northern Territory (‘NT’) Aboriginal communities says that welfare income quarantining will move to Wadeye by the end of this month. Half of all welfare payments in the communities will be quarantined for use on food and other essential items only. Major General David Chalmers is currently investigating a claim that a contractor working for the intervention built a pit toilet on a culturally significant site. The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority is investigating.
A coronial inquest began today into the death of a 78-year-old Aboriginal man left alone at a remote airstrip in the NT. The man died last year after being flown to the community airstrip from Katherine Hospital where he had been treated for pneumonia. No one was notified of the man’s return to the airstrip.
A significant land transfer has taken place today in central western New South Wales. The freehold title to Wellington Common (180 hectares) has been transferred to the Wiradjuri Wellington Corporation. The transfer was made in return for the native title claimants surrendering their native title rights to the lands and to compensation. The agreement still ensures public access over the lands to a reserve on the Macquarie River.
WA State Coroner Alistair Hope has subpoenaed the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to give evidence at an inquest into a number of Aboriginal deaths in the Kimberley region. The subpoena includes a requirement that the director-general provide the review of the Department of Indigenous Affairs prepared by Dawn Casey.
Rex Wild, co-author of the Little Children Are Sacred report, delivered the annual Catherine Helen Spence Oration today. In his speech, Mr Wild accused the Federal Government of ‘miss[ing] the central point of our recommendations, that is that no solution should be imposed from above.’ Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough says that the report’s recommendations were ‘totally inadequate’. Mr Wild called for a review to be undertaken after the federal election to assess the implementation of recommendations.
The Queensland Minister for Communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Lindy Nelson-Carr, has today announced funding to support the Palm Island Cell Visitor Service. The service, which is coordinated by the Palm Island Men’s Business Group, ‘provides that important link between detainees and their family members, friends and work contacts…’ The service was established to support Indigenous people in custody in Palm Island.
The Aboriginal Heritage Council in Victoria has rejected the Bangarang people’s application to become a registered Aboriginal party for the Echuca region. The Yorta Yorta people are already registered as the Aboriginal party for that area and the council believes that the larger Yorta Yorta group is in a better position to represent Aboriginal cultural heritage interests in Echuca.
Northern Territory MLA Loraine Braham says that the Domestic and Family Violence Act to be debated in NT Parliament next week falls short of sufficiently protecting victims. Mandatory reporting of domestic violence by health professionals is not included in the Act due to fears of the risk this imposes on remote community staff.
As Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party celebrate last Saturday’s federal election win, NT Chief Minister Clare Martin and her deputy, Syd Stirling, have announced their resignations. Ms Martin says that while the intervention was not the only reason for her decision to quit, it was an influence. The two NT resignations see Marion Scrymgour become the first Indigenous woman in Australia to reach the rank of deputy state or territory leader.
Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd has announced the appointments of Robert McClelland to Federal Attorney-General and Jenny Macklin MP to the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs portfolio.
The chief executive of the Northern Land Council (‘NLC’), Norm Fry, has resigned after the NLC’s chairman was ousted in a secret ballot. Wali Wunungmurra was voted in to replace John Daly. The chief executive officer position will now be advertised.