Coincidentally or not, a number of developments have emerged this week that heighten the political and social importance of forcing real action on Aboriginal issues. (It seems to be a repeating motif, both under Howard and Rudd, that official announcements concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander matters occur in clusters around days, anniversaries or events affecting the same populations. Under Howard, it could possibly be put down to a malicious attempt to counterpoint celebrations of indigenous survival with right-wing attacks against them. Under Rudd the correlations are harder to define, yet appear to exist none the less).
Marion Scrymgour - the highest ranking Aboriginal member of any government in Australia - quit the Northern Territory Labor Party over its Aboriginal policy on June 4. As an independent, she now holds the balance of power.
On Monday, the ABC's Four Corner's program carried the heart-wrenching and infuriating story of Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder in Western Australia who died in the back of a police van while being transported through the desert in extraordinary heat. Details can be found here.
Then, on Tuesday, the Queensland Court of Appeal ordered a new inquest, with a new coroner, to re-examine the death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004, with four broken ribs, a burst spleen and a liver torn in two. As the SMH article points out:
"In 2006, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was responsible for Mr Doomadgee's death in custody after he was arrested for public nuisance."While Hurley was charged on Invasion Day (the symbolism reeking of political spin), he was acquitted of the charges of manslaughter and assault. Then:
"At the conclusion of a review of the matter in Townsville late last year District Court Judge Bob Pack overturned Ms Clement's ruling and ordered the inquest be reopened.
Last month Mr Doomadgee's family and the Palm Island Aboriginal Council fought to have Judge Pack's decision ruled invalid in the Court of Appeal."
The Court of Appeal decision found Judge Pack's reasoning to have been "flawed", but still ruled Judge Pack was still correct in ordering the inquest be reopened, essentially trying to exonerate Hurley of any responsibility.
As Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance spokesperson Sam Watson said outside the court, yet another example of "police trying to rewrite history". The struggle against systemic racism continues, and needs your help.