QPU spokesman Denis Fitzgerald says it may be time to sever ties completely. "If they don't want the police there, get them out," he said. "Let tribal law take over, let them police their own communities." Mr Fitzgerald says watch-houses need to be upgraded if officers are wanted."No watch-house in an Aboriginal community anywhere is this state can possibly comply with black death-in-custody recommendations," he said.The union says 200 extra police and more video cameras would be a start, but Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has rejected across-the-board changes."In small communities, it is simply a waste of money," he said.
- Let tribal law take over. Aboriginal citizens are as entitled as anyone else to have police in their communities. As for tribal law, what tribal law should be implemented on Palm Island? Palm Island is a mess of whitefella's making when, a century ago, people were rounded up from various Aboriginal nations across North Queensland and herded into the Aboriginal penal settlement known as Palm Island. Really, its a bit like herding Canadians, Americans, Australians, British, and South Africans into one place and deciding whose law should take precedence. Traditional law does have a place alongside whitefella law in Aboriginal communities, just as Aboriginal culture does have a place alongside whitefella culture, but Palm Island is not the place to experiment.
- No watch-house in an Aboriginal community anywhere is this state can possibly comply with black death-in-custody recommendations. Miss Eagle suspects that this statement is true. She wonders if the QPU has raised this matter before. However, the death of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) - based on the Coroner's report - does not appear to be attributable to short-comings in watch-house design in Aboriginal communities. There is a whitefella law - one of two laws in western European tradition and found in other parts of the world. It says: "Love your neighbour as yourself." If police on Palm Island had taken as much interest in the welfare of Mulrunji as they did in their own welfare, he would be alive to-day and Chris Hurley would not be about to face the justice system with the possibility of a prison sentence.
- The union says 200 extra police and more video cameras would be a start. This does not sound an unreasonable request. However, these solutions do not address the issues of police attitudes and the attitudes of the Queensland Government to Aboriginal people and issues relating to poor race relations in Queenland, and in particular North Queensland.
- Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has rejected across-the-board changes."In small communities, it is simply a waste of money," he said. Why is Miss Eagle not surprised at this statement! No money invested in Aboriginal people and their communities outside the law. When this leads to involvement with the law arising from poverty, unemployment, life on the dole, poor access to education, housing and so on and so on, there is no inclination to invest money to ensure the safety of Aboriginal people either through enlightened attitudes of the Queensland Police or through fully implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Australia is not trying to address the issues of Aboriginal Australia. It is not lacking in goodwill of a rather generalised and fuzzy nature. It's just white Australia is not bothered about doing what really counts where it really counts.
Whitefellas are not just prepared to increase taxes to deal with the issue. They are not prepared to open up employment and education on a large scale to Aboriginal people. They are not prepared, on a wide scale, to come to grips with and acquire knowledge of Aboriginal culture. They are not prepared to sacrifice an ounce of their own comfort to ensure other Australians have the same opportunities.
Traditional Aboriginal communities are out of sight and out of mind and white Australia is quite content with that situation as it is with the out of sight out of mind prison system which has a strong Aboriginal population.
Miss Eagle has long held the view that she will know when there is no discrimination against Aboriginal people. It will be when she walks into a David Jones store and finds a traditional Aboriginal woman working on the cosmetics counter providing retail services to all Australians. This is such a long time coming that Miss Eagle thinks hell will freeze over first.
Please note: Miss Eagle has not intended the above comment as a side swipe at David Jones. The first floor of David Jones stores are sacred women's spaces in Miss Eagle's scheme of things. This is why she wants to see Aboriginal women in there too.