Archive for September, 2011


The Tall Man is the story of Cameron Doomadgee who inadvertently sparks a riot on Palm Island when he dies in police custody after being locked up for swearing at the police. The book by Chloe Hooper follows the inquest into the death, the subsequent trial and eventual acquittal of the police involved in Cameron’s death. The facts of the case are relatively straightforward except when Chris Hurley brings Doomadgee into the police station. For the prosecution the case revolves around whether Cameron tripped over the stairs or was set upon by Hurley with such force that his liver was effectively cut into two. The outcome was Cameron later died in the police lock-up without receiving any medical attention.

The ‘tall man’ of the title refers to both the physical attributes of the 2 metre tall accused police officer and a malevolent spirit that turns up in stories told by indigenous people around the country. Source material for the book was collected from interviews and is told with the journalist’s preference for impartiality. The bookgroup thought Hooper had done a reasonable job of balancing all sides of the story given the complex tangle of vested interests among those involved.

Discussion of the book centred on the plight of aboriginal people brought up in dysfunctional communities and how there are no easy solutions when a group of people clearly do not want to be part of mainstream society. Naturally we discussed the role of police in the justice system and the particularly Queensland way of dealing with indigenous issues. The conclusion by bookgroupers was that although Tall Man chronicles a confronting story the book it was well worth reading.

The story of Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody is not a message of hope, although Cameron’s family thought it was a victory just to get a police officer to stand trial for an aboriginal death. What the Tall Man provides is a view into a side of Australia that we rarely see outside of the newspaper headlines.


September 25, 2011 at 6:00 am Leave a comment


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