Support continues to swell for the campaign to force the dropping of all charges against
Lex Wotton, the respected Aboriginal community member accused of leading a riot on
Palm Island in 2004, following the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
To the streets. On 5 April 2008 nearly 200 people marched through the streets of
Fitzroy, chanting “Queensland justice racist and rotten, drop all charges against Lex
Wotton.” The crowd assembled outside the Aboriginal Health Service for a rally chaired
by Yorta Yorta activist, David Dryden, and dispersed outside the Fitzroy Police Station.
Melbourne: April 5, 2008 rally demands that charges
against Lex Wotton be dropped.
Alison Thorne, speaking on behalf of the rally organiser, the Melbourne-based
Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA-Melb), reminded the crowd of events
surrounding the shocking death in custody. The arrest never should have happened, yet
45 minutes later a man was dead, his liver cleaved in two.
She added, “there’s nothing fair about a system where a white police officer, who
is directly responsible for the death of a Black man who never should have been in
custody in the first place, walks free. And, there is nothing fair about a system where a
community leader who takes part in a completely justified act of anti-racist resistance is
charged with riot with destruction and faces up to 10 years jail!”
Inala Cooper-Dodson, a proud Yawuru woman from the Kimberley in Western Australia,
also addressed the rally. She is the daughter of Mick Dodson, a Commissioner from the
Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. She described how the many
detailed recommendations of this inquiry are still not being fully implemented and
characterised the ongoing deaths in custody as “genocide.”
Cooper-Dodson argued that singling out Lex Wotton is “aimed at intimidating all future
opposition to racist persecution.” She concluded that justice for Mulrunji must also
“bring justice for those who protested his death in custody.”
The final speaker was Dave Cushion, Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Branch of
the Maritime Union Australia (MUA). Cushion described the MUA’s support for the
battle by Aboriginal workers to win back stolen wages, adding that the union is now also
campaigning to win back “stolen justice.” He called the charges against Lex a “hideous
miscarriage of justice” and pledged ongoing support by the MUA.
And the bookshops. The ongoing struggle to both get the charges against Wotton
dropped and get some justice for the Palm Island community has also got the presses
rolling. Two books exposing the truth behind the Palm Island story have been published
The first, Gone for a Song published by ABC books, is by journalist Jeff Waters.
He uncovers with breadth and depth, Mulrunji’s contentious arrest and the botched
investigations and the legal and political scandals that followed. Waters argues that
the full implications of the case remain unresolved. He asserts that there is important
secret evidence, the subject of an ongoing court non-publication order. The book is a
scathing critique on Australia’s police and judicial system. Waters discovers not only a
problematic investigation, but also a community reeling from yet another blow in a long
line of injustices.
The second, published by Penguin, is The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper. Hooper won
a Walkley Award for an essay of the same title, which she used as a sketch for the
early part of the book. Hooper spent a great deal of time on Palm Island with bereaved
members of the Doomadgee family and the distressed and angry community. She said,
“I’d hear stories and see things that I found horrifying.” She adds that people are living
with “a level of trauma difficult to understand.”
Both books will help ensure that the Queensland government will not be allowed to
quietly bury this struggle. The movement remains mobilised and determined. Ensuring
that the charge of riot with destruction against Lex Wotton is tossed out remains a key
And the meeting halls. We have only a few months before Lex faces court and charges
that, if upheld, could see him jailed. A preliminary court hearing moved the date of the
trial from April 21 to October 6. A huge national solidarity convergence will take place in
Brisbane in the lead-up to the new trial date.
In August, ISJA-Melb is organising a Victorian speaking tour for Lex Wotton to tell
his story and further strengthen the campaign. Wotton will address unions, workplace
meetings, campus events, media and community gatherings. A huge benefit evening,
featuring a speech by Lex and an array of performers donating their talents, will take
place on Saturday 9 August at the MUA Hall in West Melbourne. To contribute to the
success of this solidarity tour, contact ISJA-Melb on 9388-0062.