State pays for Palm Island riots
The Queensland Government will pay $30 million to settle a class action over the 2004 Palm Island riots, and offer a formal apology in the Federal Court.
Indigenous activist Lex Wotton launched the legal action in 2015 after being convicted of inciting the riots following the death of Cameron Doomadgee.
Mr Doomadgee died of massive internal injuries after being arrested and locked in a police cell, with no visible injuries at the time.
In 2016, the Federal Court found that police had acted in a racist manner in their response to the riot.
Mr Wotton and his family were awarded $220,000 in damages for racial discrimination.
Now, $30 million in compensation will be spread across 447 claimants, with $80,000 the largest single payment to a resident.
The Queensland Police Union (QPU) says the settlement is a “slap in the face” to officers working in Indigenous communities.
“They're awarding $30 million to some people who are convicted criminals who will now get a cash windfall,” QPU president Ian Leavers said.
“[Police] are not racist — they're doing a job in very difficult circumstances in areas where most Australians would not comprehend what it's like to work and live in those environments.
“They are the ones who are owed an apology.”
Queensland Civil Liberties Council vice-president Terry O'Gorman described the comments as an “extraordinary” attack on a State Government that is simply obeying a court order.
“The fact is this is no 'act of grace' payment — it's the State Government doing what Mr Leavers should do and that is respect a court judgement,” he said.
Mr O'Gorman said the QPS and the Queensland Government chose not to appeal the judgement.
“Mr Leavers' comments on this are inflammatory and do nothing to improve race relations on Palm Island,” he said.
“The police union has learnt nothing from the damning findings of the Federal Court and continues year in and year out to defend indefensible actions of certain police officers.”
Mr O'Gorman said Mr Leavers’ call for an apology for officers on the ground is “ludicrous”.
“It just shows how reactionary, how out of touch and how Neanderthal the police union have become,” he said.