Hooper's brilliant and searing account of the death of Cameron Doomadgee is written with the pace of a thriller. "Tall Man" tells the story of what happened to one man in an Aboriginal community and provides insight into a world few have ever seen.Hooper's brilliant and searing account of the death of Cameron Doomadgee is written with the pace of a thriller. "Tall Man" tells the story of what happened to one man in an Aboriginal community and provides insight into a world few have ever seen.Read Less
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On November 19, 2004, in the Aborigine settlement on Palm Island off the northwest coast of Australia, an Aborigine man named Cameron Doomadgee cat-called two police officers as they arrested a drunk and disorderly neighbor. One of the officers, himself an Aborigine, told Doomadgee, ?keep walking or you be arrested too.? Thirty paces or so later, Doomadgee turned and sang out something at the white officer. One witness claimed that Doomadgee (who was walking with his pack of dogs) had started singing Who Let the Dogs Out. The Aborigine officer did not hear what Doomadgee said. The white officer, Christopher Hurley, claimed that Doomadgee insulted him. In any event, Hurley arrested Doomadgee and physically forced him into the police wagon.
Less than an hour later, Doomadgee was found dead in his cell. His body was already cold. He had died minutes after having been dragged to his cell. The autopsy showed that Doomadgee had a black eye, broken ribs and a ruptured liver. The liver had been pushed back against Doomadgee?s spine with such force that the liver had been cut almost in two pieces and the portal vein into the liver had ruptured. Doomadgee had bled to death. The Aborigine community reacted to Doomadgee?s death by rioting, destroying the police station in the process.
A few months after Doomadgee?s death, the lawyer representing the Doomadgee family and the Palm Island Aborigine Council, asked journalist/novelist Chloe Hooper to write about the case. What started out as a two-week journalist assignment turned into years of attending legal proceedings and conducting field research and historical research into the Aborigine communities in Northern Australia.
Chloe Hooper?s book Tall Man is the end result of her years of work. The book may have started out as a journalist?s assignment, but it clearly became a labor of love. Ms. Hooper followed the legal proceedings concerning Doomadgee?s death as if she were one of his relatives. Ms. Hooper sat with (and offered comfort to) the Doomadgee family during the lengthy legal proceedings. She lived among several Aborigine families while the proceedings were going on. Her account of the inquest and the trial are not without bias, but she tells a side of the story that the world needs to hear.
Aborigines are incarcerated at a much higher rate in Australia than are people of other races. An alarming number of Aborigines have died while in police custody. The Doomadgee case is the first where a white police officer has been charged with the murder of an Aborigine while in police custody. What impressed me most about Ms. Hooper?s book are her historic and current references to the oppression and segregation of the Aborigine people and the conclusions she draws from her historical and sociological study. Ms. Hooper includes in her analysis of the case, aspects of Aborigine mythology and spirituality (what Aborigines call Dream Time), the atrocities that occurred when Europeans settled on Aborigine land (what Aborigines call Wild Time), the placement of Aborigine children in government-run dormitories (the Stolen Generations) and the ensuing concentration of Aborigines into segregated communities.
For example, Ms. Hooper traveled to some ancient Aboriginal cave paintings in a remote part of northern Australia. There among the prehistoric paintings were a couple of recent pictographs portraying a very tall white male, naked below the waist but wearing a policeman?s blue shirt and a policeman?s cap. Hurley, at six foot, seven inches tall, is the Tall Man of the cave paintings as well as the Tall Man of the title. The pictograph shows a serpent, a Doomadgee family totem, biting the ankle of the Tall Man. I cannot think of a more artful and poignant way for Ms. Hooper to have shown the deep response of the Aborigine community to the events described in this book.
Ms. Hooper writes in the unpolished phrases that one hears everyday on the street. At times I found her style distracting, but overall I was very impressed with her work. I highly recommend this book.
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