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Now to the story...

Palm Island tension crosses the border into NSW

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 14 December 2004

TONY EASTLEY: Following weeks of tension on Palm Island, authorities in Queensland are now turning their attention to an Aboriginal community in New South Wales.

The Toomelah community is just across the border from the Queensland town of Goondiwindi, where a 19-year-old Toomelah Aboriginal man will appear in court this morning, charged with break and enter with intent.

The man was arrested after he and his 16-year-old friend were found allegedly trespassing by two white men. Its alleged the younger Aboriginal man was dragged for 40 minutes with a noose around his neck by the men - who will themselves appear in court in January on assault charges

Elders say the Toomelah community is waiting to see what happens from those court cases before it reacts.

Jeff Waters reports that senior Queensland police have been travelling back and forth across the border to do what they can to head-off any violence.

JEFF WATERS: The Palm Island riot was triggered by perceived injustice, so Queensland police are working hard to avoid a repeat ? this time around the southern border town of Goondiwindi.

Senior Queensland police have been crossing the border from Goondiwindi into New South Wales to visit the nearby Toomelah Aboriginal community. It was a Toomelah boy who is alleged to have been subjected to a sustained assault involving a noose - said to have taken place on the Queensland side of the border.

Chief Superintendent, Anne Lewis, says there are plenty of reasons for Queensland police to be involved.

ANNE LEWIS: The Toomelah community, whilst it is in New South Wales, really is closely aligned with Queensland, in particular Goondiwindi. It's really in our interest to develop a really good relationship, because they are part of the community that we do police.

Over the last couple of weeks since this has occurred, the district officer from Warwick, which Goondiwindi is part of, has spent a fair bit of time with both the elders and the families that have been involved in this. I last week actually personally visited Toomelah and took up with the family of the juvenile who was involved. I don't think there's any doubt they're waiting to see what happens, and they are concerned about what happens.

JEFF WATERS: Do you see the possibility of any sort of civil disobedience or disruption in that community?

ANNE LEWIS: Look, at this stage both the police and the community are working really hard to maintain good relations, and while that's occurring I can't see anything like that happening in the future.

JEFF WATERS: Toomelah elder, Ada Jarret, says the police intervention has helped calm the community.

ADA JARRET: Yeah, they came out and offered a counsellor and been doing things like that to help out - yeah, they've been very helpful.

JEFF WATERS: But Ada Jarret says some people in her community are still angry about the incident, and are waiting to see what happens next month, when the two white men - charged with the assault - appear, themselves, in court.

ADA JARRET: I think we'll wait and see, eh? See what happens ? what's the outcome of all this.

TONY EASTLEY: Toomelah elder, Ada Jarret ending that report from Jeff Waters.

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