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Island leaders could have prevented riot: Beattie

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 27 November 2004

The Queensland Government is calling for better leadership on Palm Island in the wake of a riot that has destroyed the police station.

The violence erupted when the north Queensland Indigenous community heard the details of a post-mortem conducted on a 36-year-old man who died in police custody last week.

The report says that Cameron Doomagee had a ruptured liver and broken ribs.

Police say Mr Doomagee died after a scuffle with police during which he and an officer fell onto concrete steps.

Premier Peter Beattie says the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is investigating the death.

He says the violence may not have occurred if the island's council leaders had explained to residents that there would be an independent investigation.

"They're not controlled by the government and they're not controlled by the police," he said.

"I say to the people of Palm Island who feel aggrieved, that these matters will be fully and properly investigated by the CMC, which is an independent investigation."

Palm Island is home to Australia's largest Indigenous community.

Mr Beattie says he is determined to end the ongoing problems on the island.

"We will work with the community to move out of this self-destructive cycle and to ensure that young people on the island, in particular, have got a future," he said.

"I have asked ministers to start work on plans for repairing the damage."


Police reinforcements have been sent to the Island and nine people are in custody.

During yesterday's riot, angry residents burnt down the police station, watch house, court house and police residence.

Police Minister Judy Spence says offenders could face a number of charges.

"I know that the [police] union has today suggested that attempted murder should be the charge but it would be too early to say whether the police were going to use attempted murder," she said.

"They certainly would be looking at destruction of public property, riotous behaviour as charges... but they will look at all the evidence."

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