Black leaders warn police to stay away from funeral

Source: The Age December 2 2004

Aboriginal leaders yesterday called on police to stay away from the funeral of a Palm Island man who died in custody.

The funeral of Cameron Doomadgee, 36, is expected to be held at the end of next week, although no date has been set. Mr Doomadgee died in the north Queensland island's watchhouse on November 19, one hour after he was arrested for being drunk and causing a nuisance.

Up to 300 people rioted on the island last Friday after autopsy results showed Mr Doomadgee suffered four broken ribs and a ruptured liver. Islanders believe Mr Doomadgee was murdered.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation national director David Cooper said the Palm Island community was looking for assurances from police and the Queensland Government that no police would be present at the funeral.

ATSIC Townsville Regional Council chairman Eddie Smallwood said peace could be kept on the troubled island through an "above-board" inquiry into Mr Doomadgee's death and the toning down of the boosted police presence.

Indigenous leaders want people in capital cities throughout Australia to march in a peaceful protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Brisbane-based Aboriginal activist Sam Watson, who has relatives on Palm Island, said he was meeting other indigenous leaders in Brisbane yesterday to plan a national day of action on Saturday December 11.

Mr Watson said that nothing had changed since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down 339 recommendations, and that he believed the situation was getting worse.

"All we can see is the system is hardening about Aboriginal people and we really fear for our young people on the streets of Australia," he said.