Channel Nine And The Daily Mail Are Being Taken To The Human Rights Commission
The media organisations are being taken to the Human Rights Commission over "racist" coverage of Palm Island
Palm Islanders are lodging a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission over “racist” news reports by Channel 9 and the Daily Mail.
After the 2004 riots on Palm Island, which were sparked by the death of Cameron “Mulrinji” Doomadgee in police custody, hundreds of community members received a payout from the Queensland Government.
Doomadgee, 36, was arrested for being drunk and a public nuisance, but had no visible injuries when he was put in a police cell.
He was later found dead with massive internal injuries so severe the pathologist who conducted the post-mortem compared him to a plane crash victim. He had several broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, and his liver was almost cleaved in two.
Police cracked down hard on subsequent protests, and in 2016 a Federal Court ruled they had breached the Racial Discrimination Act by acting with “a sense of impunity“, saying officers would have reacted differently if it had not happened in a non-Indigenous community.
Two years after that ruling, a class action awarded 447 Palm Island claimants $30 million, with individuals receiving between $5,000 and $80,000 each.
Media Reports Slammed As Racist
Earlier this year, a Channel 9 broadcast a “major investigation” revealing some people bought cars and boats with their compensation money.
#EXCLUSIVE: 16 years since the unforgettable Palm Island riots, residents who sued Queensland have a record $30 million payout in their pockets.
— Nine News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) May 18, 2020
“New sports cars with custom paint jobs, luxury boats paid for in cash — a taste of what $30 million of taxpayer money is being spent on,” the report opened with.
They also claimed some people who were entitled to compensation were “dodgy claimants”, something that’s been refuted by the lawyer who represented them.
The story was picked up by the Daily Mail, who ran with the headline “How locals have blown much of the $30 million compensation given to them after the Palm Island riots on lavish goods”.
The reports were torn to shreds at the time, with people quickly slamming them for being racist.
I mean, this report could have instead been “people who live on former prison island use compensation monies from death in custody riots to buy decent transportation” but hey, you do racist you. I mean, why on earth would people who live on an island want a decent boat?
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) May 19, 2020
This is so racist it’s impossible to fathom. Do they trace every compensation payment made in the country to monitor how it’s spent? And what is wrong with buying a car for god’s sake? Unbelievable.
— Toni believes ScoMo has got to go. (@ToniParsons14) May 19, 2020
This is the stupidest news segment I’ve ever seen, with an undercurrent of racism to it. Who gives a shit what they did with their payout, it’s their money, they can buy magical robotic unicorns if they want to.
— Danny Boy (@Care2much18) May 18, 2020
The problem is you do not like disadvantaged black people to have money they use for their own desires. Bare racism.
— Total Dadbod (@RadicalBoganism) May 19, 2020
Hey uhh if you don’t want to have to give $30 million dollars to Palm Islanders, maybe don’t kill them next time.
— Lindsay (@HyperGlavin) May 19, 2020
Some of the claimants are now seeking compensation for the media reports that they believe also breach Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. If Section 18C sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the one that often gets conservative knickers in a knot.
It bans any act that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”.
What Comes Next For Palm Islanders?
Levitt Robinson Solicitors will this week send a document signed by claimants to have a complaint made to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Principal lawyer Stewart Levitt represented the community in the 2016 court case, and has accused the Channel 9 report of being inaccurate. Channel 9 has previously denied this to Media Watch.
As reported by the ABC, the document they’re signing also allows for a company to fund any court case that may emerge from the human rights complaint — which mean if conciliation is not reached, the clients will seek to sue the media organisations in court.
Andrea Kyle-Sailor, whose mother was Palm Island mayor at the time of the riots, will be the lead applicant of the potential class action.
She told the ABC it wasn’t fair to portray the community as wasting taxpayer money.
“It was targeted purely at this Aboriginal community, it wasn’t targeted at anybody else that’s received compensation through the government — nobody else has been questioned,” she said.
“We’re being made to feel guilty on what we spent the money on … I congratulate people on what they purchased.”
Junkee has approached Nine and the Daily Mail for comment.