June/July 2007 Volume 6, Issue 28

In November 2004, a 36-year-old Aboriginal man died in a Queensland police watch-house. When residents of the Palm Island community learned that he had died after having his liver almost completely cleaved in two during his arrest, an uprising ensued. Some time later, the Coroner made a scathing report of the incident as well as the police handling of the investigation. After the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to pursue charges against the arresting officer, it was the wider community’s turn to express its outrage. While Geraldine Mackenzie, Nigel Stobbs and Mark Thomas’ article in issue 24 of the ILB gives a more detailed background to this outrage, the short of it is that in June 2007, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was found not guilty by a Townsville jury.

While the Queensland Police Union threatens action over Hurley even facing trial in the first place, the rest of us wonder what this whole tragic story can tell us about policing of Indigenous communities. Sixteen years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (‘RCIADIC’) made 339 recommendations to address Indigenous deaths in custody, how have police worked to lower rates of Indigenous involvement in the criminal justice system? We invited all eight police services around Australia to let us know just what they are doing to improve the historically poor relations between Indigenous people and police. The paucity of responses is an issue of its own but overall, the survey response provides some insight into action to implement RCIADIC recommendations.

The Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (‘ALSWA’) also raises an interesting issue in this edition; that of police conducting their own investigations into police complaints. Some may argue that such a process encourages police to own their errors; to address problems internally; and averts resentment at an ‘outsider’ assessing and ruling on issues of conduct and procedure. ALSWA argues, however, that empowering an external body to investigate police is essential to overcoming undesirable aspects of police ‘culture’.

Paula Morreau writes for the ILB on the interpretation of policing of public order offences. Morreau gives an informed insight into the perception and policing of ‘antisocial’ behaviour and the way in which this instigated the contact in a Palm Island street between Mulrunji and the Queensland Police Service.

Since the RCIADIC, Indigenous justice agreements have been instrumental in improving relations between police and Indigenous people in Australia. Professor Chris Cunneen examines some of these agreements and assesses the ways in which they may help to address serious issues such as overrepresentation – amongst adults and young Indigenous people.

Archives of the ILB from Volume 1, Issue 1 (1981) to 6 (19) 2006 are available online at <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AboriginalLB> and <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ILB/>.

WARNING: Readers are advised to note that this edition contains references to Indigenous persons who are now deceased.

Special Focus Edition: Policing and Indigenous Peoples

Federal Government's National Emergency in the Northern Territory
compiled by Jacqui Houston

Police Investigating Police Complaints: An Urgent Need for Change in Western Australia
by Dennis Eggington and Kate Allingham

Policing Public Nuisance : The Legacy of Recent Events on Palm Island
by Paula Morreau

Justice Agreements, Strategic Plans and Indigenous/Police Relations
by Chris Cunneen

Policing Around Australia : How have Police Responded to the Royal Commission's Recommendations?
compiled by Jacqui Houston

ReLhe MARRe TNyeNeMe: Community Patrols in Alice Springs: Keeping People Safe
by Tangentyere Council Patrollers, with Catriona Elek

ILB Anniversary Reflection

Indigenous Dispute Resolution
by Toni Bauman

Indigenous Law Bulletin Volume 5, Issue 14, January 2002 Mediation in Aboriginal Communities: Familiar Dilemmas, Fresh Developments
by Loretta Kelly


Recent Happenings June 2007
Recent Happenings July 2007

Special Thanks

Terry Chenery

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