• Palm Island man Lex Wotton was the lead claimant in the class action that won the settlement. (AAP)Source: AAP
Palm Island recipients of a $30 million class action settlement with the Queensland government will be advised against putting the money in a trust, despite potential vulnerability to exploitation.
Warren Barnsley

2 May 2018 - 12:02 PM  UPDATED 2 May 2018 - 12:05 PM

A settlement in the landmark racial discrimination case, which found police were racist in response to riots that followed Mulrunji Doomadgee's 2004 death in custody, was reached on Tuesday and the money will be paid to 447 claimants.

The Palm Islanders' lawyer Stewart Levitt says care should be taken around the distribution of the settlement but community members are entitled to do with it as they want.

"Why should Indigenous people have any less entitlement to be the masters of their own destiny?"

"I'm worried about predatory carpetbaggers descending upon Indigenous people, many of whom are receiving substantial sums of money for the first time in their lives, in a community which doesn't even have a bank branch," Mr Levitt told AAP.

"I would like to see ASIC be particularly mindful of what happens and protective of Indigenous people in that regard.

"But there's plenty of people who are relatively unsophisticated and are recipients of large sums of money and it's nobody's business to determine how it should be expended."

'Justice is served': Palm Island to receive $30 million and formal apology for response to 2004 riots
The Queensland Government has agreed to pay $30 million and deliver a formal apology to Palm Island residents to settle a landmark class action in the federal court.

Mr Levitt said recipients will be assisted to use the money "in keeping with their best interests".

"Several years ago, we were minded to think that perhaps the money should be put into a trust and should be spent on amenities for the people on Palm Island," he said.

"We thought better of it because why should Indigenous people have any less entitlement to be the masters of their own destiny?"

Watch: What happened during the riots?

Mr Levitt has also called for the money not to go towards community infrastructure that the state government should have already provided.

"Why should we be asking for the Queensland government to compensate people by providing them with the essential amenities that all Australian citizens are entitled to?" he questioned.  

"We don't want to have compensation as a cop-out for governments taking full responsibility for providing adequate amenities for Palm Islanders, who've been living in a third world community in a first world country."

The funds will cover damages, legal costs and the delivery of an official apology by the government.

The class action stemmed from the aftermath of the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004. Palm Island man Lex Wotton was convicted of inciting the riots that followed the death, but Mr Wotton launched legal action on behalf of the community in 2014 accusing the Queensland government and police of being racist in their response to the incident.


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