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2006 HREOC media release: Coroner adopts all of HREOC’s recommendations in Mulrunji inquest report

Commission Commission – General

28 September 2006

Coroner adopts all of HREOC’s recommendations in Mulrunji inquest report

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma has welcomed yesterday’s Coroner’s report into the death of Palm Island resident Mulrunji, which adopted all 40 recommendations from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s (HREOC) submission to the Inquest.

HREOC’s submission aimed to highlight a number of systemic problems with policing in Aboriginal communities. In particular, the Commission sought to raise the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Commissioner Calma said: “We are pleased that the Deputy Queensland Coroner has adopted all of the Commission's proposed comments. It is now up to the Queensland Government and Queensland Police Commissioner to decide how they act on these recommendations”.

“The Coroner's findings should be a wake up call, and cause authorities in other states and territories to look at their policies and practices to help prevent tragedies like this from happening again.”

Mr Calma said the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and its recommendations should be old news, but warned that tragic events like the death of Mulrunji are a reminder that we still have a long way to go.

“The Coroner’s recommendations that there should be more alternatives to arrests and that the police response should be changed to make arrests a last resort are not new – these are the same recommendations that were made some 15 years ago when the Royal Commission delivered its findings,” Mr Calma said.

“The Coroner also found that the adequacy of assessment and supervision of Mulrunji in police custody and the investigation into his death failed to meet death in custody guidelines.

“With Indigenous issues, I constantly find myself repeating the old mantra - ‘those who don’t learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them’. I keep repeating this, but am still waiting for people to listen.

“How many more deaths in custody will we have to endure before the Royal Commission’s recommendations are finally taken seriously and practices are improved? The COAG Indigenous Affairs Ministers must initiate a national audit on the status of state, territory and federal adoption of the Royal Commission recommendations and report back to the Australian public by mid-2007.”

Media contact: Paul Oliver on 02 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

updated 28 September, 2006