Indigenous Kalgoorlie residents plan own legal action after landmark Palm Island court decision


Indigenous Australians angered by policing in Western Australia are planning legal action following a landmark Federal Court compensation decision for Palm Islanders. The court found Queensland police were racist in their response to the 2004 death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee and the riots that followed.

Supporters of Kalgoorlie teenager Elijah Doughty, who was allegedly run down by a motorist in open grassland in August, have watched the Palm Island decision carefully.


Local Indigenous broadcaster Debbie Carmody believes the Palm Island ruling could open the door for a similar challenge in WA.

"The similarities between Palm Island and the Kalgoorlie experience? It is very very similar," Carmody said.

"Families in Kalgoorlie are exploring legal avenues against police.

"Police here in Kalgoorlie have conducted themselves differently when dealing with original nations people."

In the landmark Palm Island case, the Federal Court found that after Doomadgee's death in custody and the ensuing riot, police breached the racial discrimination act, conducting a biased and partial investigation, and carrying out an excessive and disproportionate policing response.

A convicted rioter and his relatives will receive $220,000 compensation, with the court to consider claims by another 18 families next year.

Stewert Levitt, the solicitor who represented the Palm Islanders, believes there is scope for families in Kalgoorlie to follow suit.

"I'm not going to make specific allegations against specific police officers in any particular situation, but I can say there were so many instances where black people have been the victims of crime and there have been such a perfunctory investigation of those crimes by the authorities," Mr Levitt said.

Queensland's Police Minister, police top brass and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk all say they are considering the 560 page Federal Court decision.

"It would not be fair for me to make comment unless I have read that judgement. But do I stand by our Queensland Police Service today? Yes I do," Ms Palaszczuk said.

The Federal Court will next year consider submissions on issues surrounding a possible apology from police to Palm Islanders.

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