Islanders want officer sung to death

ABORIGINAL people, including respected tribal elders incensed by the decision not to prosecute Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the death in a Palm Island cell of Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004, have asked that he suffer Aboriginal justice - by being "sung" to death.

In white man's understanding, being "sung" equates with "pointing the bone" - an Aboriginal custom where a powerful tribal medicine man is believed to have the power to call on spirits to do ill to another Aboriginal person alleged to have committed a crime or otherwise abused their culture.

Palm Island spokesman Brad Foster said yesterday he had been approached by "a number of elders and others" who had suggested Sergeant Hurley should be "sung".

Mr Foster, a former Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders rugby league footballer, said any decision of that nature was up to the aggrieved family.

"I told these people that I would not be doing anything about it or suggesting it to the Doomadgee sisters," Mr Foster said. "We are happy to see it go through the proper process.

"However, Hurley has spent years on Aboriginal communities and he knows that this is not black magic mumbo-jumbo."

Mr Foster said there were "strong Aboriginal medicine men" among tribes in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Northern Territory who were believed by their own people to have the power to "sing" others to death.

"These are the strong cultural men in our community who deal with these issues," he said.

"It is just an extension of customary justice.

"If, for instance, I was to leave my wife and take another man's wife and this caused grief to both families, I would have to front up and take punishment - women hitting with digging sticks and nulla-nullas, and the men doing the same and punching me. I could be speared in the leg or whatever.

"In the case of singing, it is never known who does it, or when. If a person gets sung, he dies. It is secret ritual - but it is real. For the family to make that decision - it might be the immediate family of the deceased person - it is up to them and them alone what they want to see done to achieve justice in the blackfella way."

Mr Foster was involved in a much-talked-about fight on Palm Island several years ago where he defended his father's name.

The two protagonists were surrounded by more than 200 locals "on the grass" and they fought for more than 20 minutes without a break. The loser was then flogged by women with sticks.

Mr Foster was not that loser.

He joined other indigenous leaders this week in promising a long campaign against the state's Director of Public Prosecutions, Leanne Clare, over her decision not to lay charges against Sergeant Hurley despite a coroner finding the officer was responsible for Doomadgee's death.

Palm Islanders, including members of Doomadgee's family, are also considering a civil action against Sergeant Hurley if no criminal charges are brought.

"There are still several legal channels we're looking at, but we'll also be maintaining the public pressure on Leanne Clare over this," Mr Foster said.