Lawyers who won $30m Palm Island case pitch to represent Yuendumu
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned this article contains an image of a deceased person.
The lawyers who secured a historic $30 million payout over the infamous death of an Aboriginal man in police custody are seeking to represent the community of Yuendumu and the family of Kumanjayi Walker after he was shot dead by Northern Territory police.
The law firm, Levitt Robinson Solicitors, would seek multimillion-dollar sums for both the family of the victim Kumanjayi Walker and the community of the town of Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.
Lawyer Stewart Levitt will next week travel to Yuendumu with Indigenous community leader Lex Wotton, who led protests in Queensland following the 2004 death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee at Palm Island.
Kumanjayi Walker was allegedly shot dead by NT police.
A class action after a botched internal police investigation into the death eventually led to a $30 million compensation payout by the Queensland government.
Mr Levitt and Mr Wotton will seek to win the support of the victim's family and the community to take up their case.
"I want to work with Stewart Levitt and his firm to ensure that there is a just outcome for what the family of late Kumanjayi Walker and the community of Yuendumu have had to suffer," said Mr Wotton.
"Police practices and procedures … have got to change, and justice has to be available to both black people and white people."
Mr Levitt, Levitt Robinson's senior partner, said his firm would seek multimillion-dollar payouts for both the victim's family and the broader community of Yuendumu.
Mr Levitt, whose firm filed another class action on behalf of a remote NT community, said the case against the NT police was strong.
Lex Wotton led a class action against the Queensland government.CREDIT:PAUL HARRIS
"What's the NT government doing having a town with no medical personnel on site at all for hundreds of kilometres?" he said.
"In that environment, for someone to discharge a firearm knowing there's no doctors beggars belief. This is about institutional black disadvantage… this isn't something that happens to one person, this is about the abomination that is the treatment of Indigenous people. It needs to be addressed."
The law firm would only seek to be reimbursed for its costs if the case was successful and would take no dividend reaped from any potential payout, Mr Levitt said.
However the class action may be backed by a litigation funder, which could pocket up to 20 per cent of any compensation, he said.
"We don't want money from victims of community. We want money, by hook or by crook, from the people who should be held accountable," he said.
Costs paid to his law firm totalled $3 million in the Palm Island case. He expected this figure to be "considerably less" in the Yuendumu case, which he forecast would be shorter and simpler.