• Palm Island man Lex Wotton was the lead claimant in the class action that won the settlement. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Queensland Government has offered a historic apology to the Palm Island community for the events that followed the 2004 death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
Ella Archibald-Binge

15 Jun 2018 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 28 Jun 2018 - 1:22 PM

Advertised in Thursday's Courier Mail, Townsville Bulletin and local newsletter Palm Island Voice, the apology was part of a $30 million settlement for Palm Islanders following a landmark class action ruling which found police had been racist in their response to the 2004 riots. 

"The Queensland Government acknowledges that men, women and children who were assaulted, or otherwise treated illegally during this time suffered distress, humiliation and violence, and were discriminated against on the basis of their race by persons who represented the Queensland Government," the apology reads.

"We offer our deep regret and sorrow for those actions.

"There has been much suffering and pain wrought on the people of Palm Island, both during and since those events... We are sorry for the pain you have endured."

The statement goes on to say that the government has "learned from your significant pain and suffering" and adopted a "more harmonious and culturally appropriate response to policing". 

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said she hoped the apology would signal the start of a new chapter for Palm Island. 

"We all hope this provides some closure for the Palm Island community and that we can move forward together," she said in a statement.

The $30 million settlement and apology was formally approved by the federal court on June 15 after mediation between the Queensland Government, Queensland Police and the Palm Island community.

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey told NITV News last month that the settlement means "justice has served itself" after a long ordeal for the community. 

The Queensland Police Union has previously strongly rejected assertions its members did anything wrong and said police officers serving on the island at the time deserve an apology.

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In December 2016, following a class action lodged by Lex Wotton on behalf of more than 400 Palm Islanders, the court found that Queensland police officers had breached the Racial Discrimination Act in their response to riots following the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee. 

The landmark ruling found that:

  • The investigation into Mulrunji's death wasn't impartial or independent;
  • Police had failed to provide timely and accurate information to the community to defuse tensions;
  • The state of emergency declaration facilitated an excessive and disproportionate police response to the riots, and;
  • The use of Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) officers to search homes was unnecessary, disproportionate and was undertaken as a show of force against locals who'd protested about the conduct of police.

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