Important documents for Palm Island residents:
- Apology and Statement of Healing to the Palm Island community
- Class Action Settlement Notice
- Deed of Settlement
- Palm Island Class Action Settlement Scheme
- Summary of the judgment of Justice Mortimer in the Federal Court made on 5 December 2016
- Orders made by the Federal Court on 5 December 2016
Levitt Robinson Solicitors ran a class action on behalf of Aboriginal residents of Palm Island concerning allegations of institutionalised racial discrimination within the Queensland Police Service in the events surrounding the 2004 death of Palm Island’s Mulrinji (aka Cameron Doomadgee) in police custody.
An internal investigation into Mulrunji’s death cleared the police of all wrongdoing. Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission was later to conclude that “the investigation into the death of Mulrunji was seriously flawed, its integrity gravely compromised in the eyes of the very community it was meant to serve.”
The death in custody and flawed police investigation sparked a protest in the local community – since dubbed the “Palm Island Riots” by the media. In response, the Queensland police declared a state of emergency on the Island and proceeded to send waves of armed police officers to arrest numerous Palm Island residents in their homes.
Levitt Robinson acted for the residents of Palm Island affected by those events.
An initial trial of the lead applicants’ claims was held in September 2015 and April 2016. On 5 December 2016, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the applicants, awarding them a total of $220,000 in compensation and interest, as well as legal costs.
In her landmark judgment, Justice Mortimer made nine separate declarations that officers of the QPS had engaged in unlawful racial discrimination contrary to section 9(1) of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).
Her Honour described the differential treatment by the police of the Palm Islanders by reference to their race as “an affront to the rule of law.”
Levitt Robinson Senior Partner, Stewart Levitt, told the ABC that:
“It’s the first time an entire community has been represented in a class action against a state of Australia alleging racial discrimination and being vindicated in that cause.”
“You see terrible things happening to people without any remedies and there’s so much disillusionment in the Indigenous community because they just don’t get a fair go under our legal system.”
The class action settled at a mediation, subject to Court approval. The State of Queensland agreed to pay $30 million in compensation (inclusive of costs) and to apologise to the residents of Palm Island.
On 15 June 2018, his Honour Justice Murphy approved the Palm Island Class Action Settlement Scheme and apology (linked above). His Honour commented: “the settlement sum of $30 million is sizable. There are 441 class members who are eligible to recover compensation through the settlement and their estimated recovery after costs through the settlement represents approximately 100% of their assessed losses.”
The following documents are available for download:
- Notice of Disclosure of Costs Agreement
- Further Amended Originating Application
- Third Further Amended Statement of Claim
- Defence to Third Further Amended Statement of Claim
- Reply to Defence to Third Further Amended Statement of Claim
- Judgment in Wotton v State of Queensland (No 5)  FCA 1457
- Judgment in Wotton v State of Queensland (No 6)  FCA 245
- Statement of Claim – General Damages Sub-Group
- Statement of Claim – Travel Restriction Sub-Group
- Defence to General Damages Sub-Group Claim
- Defence to Travel Restriction Sub-Group Claim
A number of court documents relating to the Palm Island class action can be downloaded from the online file on the Federal Court website.