The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper

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The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper

Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of one Aboriginal death amongst many illustrates a history of social breakdown and deprevation. Recommneded
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099520764

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Cameron Doomadgee – Mulrunji – was just thirty six years old when he was arrested on Palm Island. Quite why he was arrested was never clear. He wasn't drunk, although he had been drinking beer – and was walking along the road singing Who Let the Dogs Out? Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley felt that there was reason to arrest Mulrunji for creating as public nuisance and he was taken to the police station. What happened next was to be the subject of intense media speculation and legal proceedings over the coming years, but within forty five minutes Mulrunji was dead.

The police claimed that he'd tripped over a step but the injuries were so severe that there was speculation that he'd been involved in a car crash. Suspicion could only fall on Chris Hurley, an experienced policeman, good looking and charismatic who had long experience of working with the indigenous communities. Eventually he would come to trial but not before there had been a riot on Palm Island – for which many of the Aboriginal community would be brought to trial.

Before I picked up Chloe Hooper's book my knowledge of the aboriginal communities in Australia was superficial – the stuff of long ago school lessons and the occasional reading of news reports – but Hooper gives the background to the difficult situation in which the indigenous communities find themselves with a light touch. She's non-judgemental, explaining why there is so much drunkenness in places like Palm Island, why suicide is common and the communities are affected by their ancient myths and beliefs.

On the other hand she's frank about the part which white people have played in bringing about this situation and the difficulty which the police face in places like Palm Island. Punches are not pulled and the story, which reads more like a thriller than history, is atmospheric and a compelling read. It's difficult not to feel shame at the wretched situation in which the Aboriginals live and about their lack of power over their own lives. Although the book is really about one death amongst many it's also a brilliant illustration of the wider social breakdown.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also appreciate Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive by Jared Diamond.

Buy The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tall Man: Life and Death on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper at Amazon.com.


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