The Federal Court has ruled in favour of the “Palm Island Class Action” brought by Levitt Robinson on behalf of lead applicants Lex, Agnes and Cecilia Wotton on Monday 5 December 2016, with a total of $220,000 in compensation being awarded to the three lead applicants, and the Court paving the way for more compensation to be awarded to group members with similar claims.
The class action made allegations that the Queensland Police Service had engaged in racial discrimination against Aboriginal residents of Palm Island in its response to the death in police custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on 19 November 2004 and its response to the protests and fires which occurred a week later.
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.
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.”
Levitt Robinson is currently reviewing the judgment and will soon be seeking directions for the determination of individual group member claims.
Any residents of Palm Island who were affected by the events of November 2004 are encouraged to contact Levitt Robinson in order to register as a group member in the proceeding.