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Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in Australia

Updated on March 29, 2014

"Following the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Reports there a was a massive ground swell of public opinion and sentiment in middle white Australia towards really creating and changing the cultural discrimination that had developed over decades towards Aborignal people culminating Sydney Harbour Bridge reconciliation walk..."

Aboriginals Deaths in Custody in Australia

Australian Aboriginals are overepresented as a percentage of the population in Gaol. Deaths in Custody of Australian Aboriginals are high.

Australia's reputation for Aboriginal deaths in Custody is at best atrocious and worst a dam right criminal scandal.

Not so long ago it was revealed by no less than the CMC (Crime and Misconduct Commission, Queensland)) that the Death in a Palm Island Watch- House of Aboriginal man Cameron Doomadgee. Not only was Cameron Doomadgee killed allegedly at the hands of a Queensland Police Sergeant.

It has been revealed today that there has been a concerted attempt since his death in 2004 to cover it up. By 'doctoring' the evidence presented to an Inquiry. Not only that the orders came from the top echelon's of the Queensland Police Service in Roma Street Brisbane Headquarters.


"Any reasonable understanding of the evidence given at the many hearings into Doomadgee's death comes to the inevitable conclusion that most of the police involved were concerned only with covering for themselves and for their mate, Chris Hurley. Mr Hine said as much."

This is 147th 'death in custody 'of an Aboriginal person since the the Federal Government had a Royal Commission Over twenty years ago to examine the atrocious aspect of the over representation of Aboriginals in custody. . Twenty years on and not much has changed. This is despite hundreds of recommendations in the final report in the Royal Commissions findings. Some of the many recommendations were in fact implemented but the Aboriginal community remain very highly ranked in world terms as far as both deaths in custody and the over representation generally in Australian prisons and Police Lock-up's.

Palm Island

The Crime and Misconduct Commissions Report

The CMC latest report claims the people of Palm Island, the wider indigenous community and the ``public generally'' have been let down. And it is set to be particularly critical of the apparent failure of investigating officers to be seen as impartial.

The CMC have found the investigation into the death of Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, was seriously flawed and its integrity gravely compromised in the eyes of the community. Mulrunji was found dead in a cell less than an hour after his arrest and a scuffle in Palm Island watch-house on November 19, 2004. Sen-Sgt Chris Hurley was tried and acquitted of the manslaughter of Mulrunji in 2007, admitting that his knee may have come into contact with Mulrunji's stomach in a complicated fall. The death infamously sparked riots on the island three days later when the police station was burnt to the ground.

The long-awaited CMC report, which explores the initial police investigation and subsequent internal investigation, is due to be released next week after Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine hands down the findings of a third thats right third coronial inquiry into Doomadgee's death. The report has accused the Ethical Standards Command officers of running a biased investigation to protect other police. It is alleged that witnesses were guided in their answers in interviews, Some were provided in advance with copies of the questions they were to be asked.

A further allegation is that some key witnesses were not even interviewed by the officers, privately described by Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson as among his "most respected".The Queensland Police Commissioned Officers Union is considering legal action to stop publication of the report.

The CMC report is set to attack police ``double standards'' and the apparent culture of officers protecting other police.


Police Commissioner

The Chief Commissioner of Queensland Police Bob Atkinson will be urged to act immediately to restore public trust in the police service opening the way for a royal commission.
It is understood the harshest criticism is reserved for officers who headed the investigation into police. High-ranking officers are said will escape criminal charges but be fined, demoted, or dismissed.

The CMC believes officers protected other police from blame. Four officers are believed to be facing disciplinary action for official misconduct over the initial Palm Island investigation.Another two officers are likely to face disciplinary action for negligence in failing to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the initial QPS investigation.

A CMC spokeswoman said the QPS had had until April 30 to provide feedback to the draft report under the procedural fairness process.

The situation for Aboriginals in other States of Australia is similar to that of Queensland


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      As awful as it may be,The answer is simple obey the laws of the land in the first instant remain out of prison.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia


      Unfortunately bad habits and bad attitudes die hard

    • flit profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario

      I am working on issues related to Aboriginal women in prisons in Canada ...was very interested to read this... although it is more than a little discouraging to learn that things like this happen everywhere.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 

      8 years ago from Australia

      Well done for bringing up such a sensitive subject. The stories need to be told, all of them, including the continuing decline of an entire race. While we give to organisations like World Vision to care for people internationally, Australia has poverty on its doorstep and does little to change it. As someone who has lived on Aboriginal communities I have seen first hand the appalling third world conditions. The problems are huge and it is little wonder that so many people end up in jail as a result. There needs to be a holistic approach before change can happen that will have any positive or long lasting effects.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Indeed one of his relatives commited suicide over the situation !

    • mquee profile image


      8 years ago from Columbia, SC

      This is really a sad situation. You would think that all countries would try to uplift and protect their indigenous citizens. It seems we are civilized when it suits us. This is new information for me. Thanks for informing us.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      By all accounts it was preventable !

    • Myn Is Me profile image

      Myn Is Me 

      8 years ago

      Can I tell you something that is sad. And this I heard from someone involved in a Government program here in Australia...

      There are those in the aboriginal culture in some parts of Australia who believe that going to jail is a part of an initiation. That their father, their uncles, they all went to jail. It's a passage of rite to becoming a man.

      The cycle must be broken.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      indeed Ethel it is dreadful but it is not the first nor the last unfortunately

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Deborah Demander the mistreatmet of Aboriginees goes back to 1788 when Australia was invaded. For some reason there developed a cultural norm that allowed Aboriginees to be abused by police !

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Dreadful. Too much of this is swept under the carpet.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      8 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Unfortunately, scandal and corruption are rampant worldwide. It is hard to say what would resolve this horrific crime.

      Thanks for informing us.


    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thanks Ohma for your comment !

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      thanks earnesthub for your comment !

    • Ohma profile image


      8 years ago

      Barry, what a shocking story. I hope that this page helps to raise awareness and ultimately lead to a major change. I know so little about Australia and will not attempt to comment on the state of the legal system there but if the citizens have enough of the right information I believe that change is on the way.

    • earnestshub profile image


      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I commend you for bringing this up. The whole thing is a disgrace, and makes me feel less proud of Australia because of it.

      Those we appointed to government and within the legal system have allowed this to happen. Shame on all of us who are old enough to vote!

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      THe Voice. Thanks for your quick response and comment !

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      SomewayouttaHere thanks for your cooment and response !

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for your response Misha

    • thevoice profile image


      8 years ago from carthage ill

      powerful powerful shocking hub read write thanks

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image


      8 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      Unfortunately, that happens in Canada too. % of Aboriginal people compared to any others in prison is far too high here. And...not unheard of for someone to have died - just down played in the media.

    • Misha profile image


      8 years ago from DC Area

      Welcome to the real life... Did you think police is there to protect anybody? Think again...

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes well i have only just published it a few months ago Although I agree it should be a national issue !

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Wow, this is shocking to read. How the heck is it we have almost never heard of this before over here in the UK? This is a serious major news story. There ought to be lots more comments on this. It sounds very odd and disproportional. Glad I read this great hub!


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