• Levitt Robinson

Channel Nine And The Daily Mail Are Being Taken To The Human Rights Commission | Junkee

By Rachael Conaghan 21 August 2020

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.

“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.

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.

Original article can be found here: