Palm Island residents will take on a major news organisation over a report that lawyers say vilified the community.
Palm Island residents will take on a major news organisation over a report that lawyers say vilified the community.

Palm Islanders take on media giant

Palm Island residents are set to take on Nine News over a report which lawyers say vilified the community.

A complaint over the "racist reporting" will be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission, with the vast majority of claimants from the 2018 Palm Island riots class action.

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In May, Nine News aired a story ­detailing the "lavish" way Palm Island ­residents were spending their riot compensation.

Lawyer Stewart Levitt said the report was "designed to stigmatise and humiliate Indigenous people on Palm Island".

ABC TV file pic of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee), a Palm Island resident who died in custody 19 Nov 2004.
ABC TV file pic of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee), a Palm Island resident who died in custody 19 Nov 2004.

The report was a follow to the riots which broke out on Palm Island in 2004, after the death in police custody of Cameron "Mulrunji" Doomadgee.

The class action which followed in 2016 found police had used excessive force against Palm residents during the riot, with claimants awarded $30 million.

The money from the case began to flow into the community earlier this year, which is when Nine reporter Alex Heinke fronted a piece which suggested residents were spending their cheques on luxury boats, cars and lavish goods.

The report claimed some people who had received payment were "dodgy claimants" and had not been on the island at the time of the riots or were in jail.

The Nine report was followed with a similar article by the Daily Mail. The claims have been refuted by Mr Levitt, who said no one had been wrongly compensated.

Iconic Australian human rights lawyer – Stewart Levitt.
Iconic Australian human rights lawyer – Stewart Levitt.

Mr Levitt's firm, Levitt Robinson Solicitors, will take Nine Entertainment Co., Nine reporter Alex Heinke, and Dailymail.com Australia to the commission.

The report was not well received in the community, while ABC's Media Watchdescribed it as "racist" and "appalling".

Almost all of the 447 riot claimants have now signed the new claim against the media outlets.

Mr Levitt said the report vilified the Palm Island community.

"How many spoiled white kids buy souped-up sports cars and are not criticised when they are just living off mummy and daddy's largesse," Mr Levitt said.

"There is such an incredible double standard reflected in the article that was designed to stigmatise and humiliate Indigenous people on Palm Island.

"That is why we are taking action."

Palm Island resident Lex Wotton, who appeared in the Nine report, said it was racist and twisted his words.

Palm Island local Lex Wotton. Pictured: Zak Simmonds
Palm Island local Lex Wotton. Pictured: Zak Simmonds

"Hopefully the Humans Rights Commission can see it for what it is," he said.

Once the complaint is lodged with the commission, a formal investigation will take place and a conciliation process.

If the conciliation process is not successful, Mr Levitt will have 60 days to take the news organisations to court.

Nine News declined to comment.

Originally published as 'RACIST': Palm Islanders take on media giant



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