Learning the truth about Indigenous violence is key to fixing the justice system


It was a hot August night at Shire Hall in Normanton. The local dance had just ended and people were walking home. Normanton is a town in the hinterland of the Gulf of Carpentaria, with a predominantly indigenous population. Three policemen were on duty and had little to do. One, a sergeant, was in charge of the fairly quiet Normanton police station while the other two, both detectives, were on patrol after being sent to Normanton due to the influx of people attending the meeting. local race.

I was a lawyer for an aboriginal legal service in North Queensland at the time. My client was about to leave Shire Hall to return home with his partner. The officers were obviously bored on patrol, decided to have a little fun and arrested my client, allegedly for using obscene language. They forcibly removed him from the room and took him to the guard post. What happened next was appalling, but tragically not uncommon. The court record speaks for itself:

The police were bored and decided to have a little fun with my client.Credit:Harry afentoglou

“The complainant (my client) was pushed into the guardhouse by the officers who arrested him, where he was both punched and knocked down. While the complainant was on the ground, the two police officers kicked him in the head and shoulders. The complainant covered his head and shouted that he had had enough.

During this assault, the complainant managed to get up and breach the gate to the guardhouse, but was repulsed by the officer in charge, who stood in the doorway while the others punched and kicked. the man. The officer pushed him against the fence in the common area in front of the guard post.

While the Applicant was on the ground and against the wire mesh, one of the arresting officers grabbed the wire mesh to stabilize himself and jumped up and down on the Complainant’s head and shoulders. After he stopped jumping on the complainant, he walked away. Shortly after he left, the other officer who arrested him approached the complainant, leaned over him and urinated on his stomach.


These are findings of fact upheld by the Queensland Supreme Court Full Court after my client sued the police for assault.

While these horrific events happened in Normanton in 1982, we have to wonder if much has really changed since then?

Many indigenous Australians did not survive the outrageous and degrading treatment inflicted on my client at this house in Normanton, and far too many died in custody.


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