The Tall Man

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, NITV Though this fea­ture-length doc­u­men­tary was shown on SBS One in Fe­bru­ary, it seems a per­fect fit for Aus­tralia’s first free-to-air in­dige­nous tele­vi­sion chan­nel, NITV. At that time I wrote that, af­ter an al­leged night of drink­ing in Novem­ber 2004, Palm Is­land res­i­dent Cameron Doomadgee was walking home singing his favourite song, Who Let the Dogs Out. Po­lice Sergeant Chris Hur­ley re­ceived a mouth­ful of abuse as he drove past Doomadgee, where­upon the po­lice­man de­cided he had had enough. In one of those piv­otal mo­ments that could so eas­ily have been avoided, Hur­ley ar­rested Doomadgee for swear­ing at him and took him to the watch­house, where, 45 min­utes later, the tall man was dead. The doc­u­men­tary by di­rec­tor Tony Kravitz, based on the book The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper, grabs hold of you in the first min­utes and sim­ply will not let go. It be­comes very easy to un­der­stand the out­rage of lo­cal in­dige­nous peo­ple, who were asked to be­lieve the cause of death was a fall. The in­jury list was hor­rific. Doomadgee was found to have bruis­ing to the back of the head, an abra­sion above his right eye­brow, bruis­ing to the jaw, a rup­tured por­tal vein, four bro­ken ribs and a liver that was al­most cleaved in two. The in­juries were said to be of the kind nor­mally seen in fa­tal car ac­ci­dents. That’s some fall. When Palm Is­lan­ders were given the news of the cause of death by then mayor Erykah Kyle, the men of the town ri­oted and burned down the po­lice sta­tion. Even­tu­ally the en­tire Queens­land Po­lice Ser­vice fell in be­hind Hur­ley’s de­fence. The whole sorry saga un­folds like a mys­tery thriller through numer­ous com­mis­sions of in­quiry.

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