The Tall Man
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.