Queensland 'justice' fails Aboriginal kids again

Issue 

By Anne-Marie Donnelly
and Brendan Greenhill

BRISBANE — The Queensland Criminal Justice Commission decided late on Friday, March 3, not to charge the "Pinkenba Six" with official misconduct after they were cleared of criminal charges in Brisbane Magistrates Court on the previous Friday 23.

The six police had been charged with deprivation of liberty relating to the dumping of three Aboriginal boys, aged 12, 13 and 14, at the deserted outer Brisbane suburb of Pinkenba on May 10, 1994.

The matter has been referred to Police Commissioner Jim O'Sullivan for "internal discipline", despite uncontested evidence at the committal hearing that the police had taken the boys to Pinkenba in marked police vehicles and were out of their police district for an improper purpose.

In his decision, magistrate Robert Quinlan said the boys "have no fear of police" and that "they all knew that they had the right to refuse to get into the police motor vehicle, but despite this knowledge they proceeded and got in". The magistrate concluded from these assumptions that the boys went willingly with police, despite evidence that they did not want to go and feared being locked up if they refused.

In an angry rally and march to the offices of Premier Wayne Goss on March 1, 400 members of the Aboriginal community, including many children and young people, condemned judicial racism in Queensland.

Lionel Fogarty, poet and activist and brother of deceased dancer Daniel Yock, presented a petition calling on the government to enact "as a matter of urgency, humanity and justice, the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody".

Speakers described the Pinkenba affair as the latest in a series of travesties. Frustration was expressed about the colonial mentality of courts and police and being treated as "tenth class citizens in our own country".

Support has flooded in to the Aboriginal Legal Service in Brisbane. The National Youth Law Centre in Sydney, National Aboriginal Youth Law Centre in Darwin, National Aboriginal and Islander Legal Service and the Queensland Watchdog Committee, along with many members of the local legal community, have all expressed outrage and offered their support.

The Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee Secretariat has written to attorney-general Dean Wells expressing deep concern and dissatisfaction with the decision, recommending that the minister use his power to override magistrate Quinlan and present the matter for trial.

Crown prosecutor Ross Martin refused to use the evidence of socio-linguist Dr Diana Eades, a specialist in Aboriginal English. The director of prosecutions was requested by the Aboriginal Legal Service in August 1994 to call Dr Eades as an expert witness to maximise cultural sensitivity in the court.

In fact, Dr Eades turned up of her own accord and approached the prosecutor about the appalling cross-cultural miscommunication she saw. She analysed transcripts of evidence and provided a statement at the request of the prosecutor. However, her testimony was ignored by the prosecution at the direction of the director of prosecutions, Royce Miller QC. No reason was given to either the Aboriginal Legal Service or Dr Eades.

A rally and march will be held on Friday, March 10, at noon at the Roma Street Forum. For further information phone the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, (07) 221 1448.
[Anne-Marie Donnelly is a juvenile justice lawyer with the Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. She acts for the three boys in this matter. Brendan Greenhill is a journalist with public radio 4ZZZ FM.]

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