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The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,487 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
This is the story of Palm Island, the tropical paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty minutes later lay dead in a watch-house.

This is the story of that policeman, the tall, enigmatic Chris Hurley who chose to work in some of the toughest and wildest places in Australia, and of the struggle to bring him to trial.

Above all, The Tall Man
paperback, 276 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Penguin Group Australia
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nancy Oakes
May 26, 2009 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 2004, on Palm Island off the coast of Australia, Cameron Doomadgee was arrested. Palm Island is a settlement and home to many indigenous persons, and it is under the "protection" of the police. The police there are not Aboriginal people, they are regular, white Australians. Doomadgee was arrested by Sr. Sgt. Chris Hurley, ostensibly for swearing at the cops; it may well have been for singing "Who Let the Dogs Out." Either way, Doomadgee was arrested, then pushed into the police van, taken to ...more
Rebecca McNutt
This Australian true crime novel about police brutality and the corruption in the law enforcement system, to the point where the life of an innocent human being was ended, was well-researched, emotional and gripping from the beginning to the end.
T.D. Whittle
Sep 28, 2014 T.D. Whittle rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
The copy of this book that I have had the original blue cover with a red palm leaf on it and was called "The Tall Man: Life and Death in Palm Island." I preferred that title, as it broadened the scope, which I think matters: the death of Cameron Doomadgee, tragic as it was, is also not an isolated case. There have been several such incidents of death in custody of an Aboriginal person since I have lived here in Australia. I think that the original title alluded to Palm Island's representing a mi ...more
Sarah Clement
Feb 07, 2012 Sarah Clement rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a few years ago, not too long after I first moved to Australia, but was only reminded of it recently when a documentary was played on SBS of the same name (which included an interview with the author). This is a moving and relatively unbiased account of the actions leading to Doomadgee's death and what happened soon thereafter. It also gives you a taste of the career and character of Chris Hurley and of what life is like in remote communities such as Palm Island. To be honest, I ...more
Sep 20, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story, recounted by journalist Chloe Hooper, of the events leading up to the death of indigenous man, Cameron Doomadgee while in police custody on Palm Island and what followed. I remember the riots clearly.

This is shocking and sad both in the immediate tragedy of Mr. Doomadgee's death and the subsequent lack of justice but also in the context of the bigger picture of some aspects of the treatment of indigenous Australians. As a southerner (I'm from Melbourne) I found it almost like
Robin Hemley
Jul 18, 2009 Robin Hemley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A piece of reportage. Jaw-dropping in places. Like THE FATAL SHORE, it's required reading for anyone interested in the history of Australia. in some ways, Hooper's book echoes the brutality of Australia's. the English brutalized their underclass and sent them as convicts to Australia and these people and their descendants in turn brutalized the Aborigines. Hooper shows in spare, elegant prose that racism is not a legacy in Australia but a living and breathing part of everyday Australian life. th ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Sonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I remember the buzz around Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee when it was published but haven’t managed to read it until now. This book has given me a new appreciation for investigative journalism and I am convinced that Hooper’s book showcases very high quality of this form of writing.

The number of deaths of indigenous Australians in custody has been a prominent issue and in 2004, on Palm Island, an Aboriginal man, Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji, was arrested for verbally abusing a police o
May 10, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lee Kofman
I can’t say exactly that I enjoyed this book. Rather, I can say it was an important book for me to read. A bit like eating lettuce - not exciting but good for you. Some of the stuff there absolutely devastated me, particularly the horrific violence of Indigenous men towards women.
I really loved reading about aboriginal mythology and history. However, something didn’t feel genuine enough in the writing – chiefly because there wasn’t an attempt to portray the victim even though the writer had a m
Oct 25, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spent 5 years in the Red Centre of Australia, though I wasn't working specifically with Aborigines (it was a Secondary school which catered for all comers, the vast majority of whom were white), and I remember wondering whether our rule that all students had to wear shoes was racist or not. And being shocked at the conditions in the Town Camps, and even some of the houses lived in by my immediate aboriginal neighbours. The conditions at Palm Island and Doomadgee described in Tall Man make Tenn ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Felicity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was actually a review in the New York Times where I first read about this book. The author is Australian, but she has clearly written the book for an American audience with a lot of translation of Australian terms and concepts.

This book is about the first and only policeman ever to be charged in relation to a death in custody in an Australia jail/prison. In November 2003, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley arrested Chris Doomadgee for "public nuisance" and took him to the Palm Island Jail. Forty mi
May 07, 2009 Weavre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Weavre by: Vine selection
If the cover blurb interests you, you'll like this book.

Journalist Chloe Hooper chronicles a pivotal series of events in the history of white/Aboriginal interaction in Queensland, Australia. Her writing is clear and descriptive, and she breathes new life into the real characters most readers will only know from the pages of her book. The Palm Island and surrounding settings are so vividly drawn that she could almost be writing ethnography, and the legal drama that unfolds is a story as gripping
Jul 18, 2013 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and still find myself returning to the novel on a regular basis. It is an incredible tale depicting the horror that is living in Australia's rural and remote communities. To a certain extent I relate to Hooper, born in the secluded suburbs of Melbourne in the nation's metropolitan south one is largely immune to the lives of many indigenous Australians, all we hear are the biased reports on the news. Therefore reading Hooper's novel was an eye opener and a glimpse into Austr ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Eli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great non-fiction novel who, somewhat in the vein of Capote's In Cold Blood, takes tortured justice as its main character. Set in the Torres Strait region of Australia, it explores the phenomenon of "death in custody", a euphemistic term used to denote Aborigines men who die in police custody, usually either by police assault or self-inflicted wounds. These deaths are rarely investigated in any depth, and charges are almost never pressed. It's only when Chris Hurley, an apparently upstanding w ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Allie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a chilling, devastating book. It left me reeling - I don't even know what to write.

There are so many deeply disturbing things about Australia and indigenous relations, law enforcement, the legal system.. so many things. We like to believe that things like Doomadgee's death just wouldn't happen "these days", that we've somehow moved forward as a society. I don't believe it for a second, and this book just re-affirmed it.

This book ought to be required reading for any high school student i
Sep 25, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most important books I have ever read!!! Definitely a must read especially for Australians. It is confronting, offensive, depressing, hopeless, frustrating, shocking, empowering, brilliant. It does not gloss over the situation on Palm Island; the alcohol abuse, the endemic violence, the awful cycle of despair, depravation and degradation. But it also exposes the corruption of the police force. I have the utmost respect for police officers and I am sure most people serve the public out ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This account left me with more questions than answers. Such a complex situation with no obviously viable solution for anyone. Where do we start?
Cat Woods
Jan 22, 2015 Cat Woods rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any Australian and anyone, really, who is interested in justice and the inherent prejudices and breakdown in policies and policing of the legal, political and judicial processes that enable deaths to occur under the eye of the authorities paid to protect, without justice for the victim or their family.
There is much to lament in this book but also much to be proud of and relieved about. There are genuinely good people, with integrity and determination, who donate their time and ef
Jan 17, 2012 Jeanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I knew very little about Australia's treatment of the Aboriginal people and this story intrigued me. I did learn about the shame of Australia, but I did not feel that I got to know the Aboriginal people who were so integral to the story. They remained merely character sketches and I found that quite disappointing. I also found myself confused by the many characters and their family trees. For me, the author did not describe the individuality of each person - they remained indistinct.
Nov 30, 2015 Izzy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
I'm surprised by all the glowing reviews this book gets. I had high hopes when I set about reading this in my Literature class. Unfortunatly I ended up dragging myself through a heavily bloated news artical. I would honestly find burning The Tall Man more interesting than reading it.
Nov 21, 2014 Sophiealka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I wrote the following review as a student piece in 2010, not long after first reading Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee, or as it was titled then, 'The Tall Man':

Written by Walkley award-winning journalist Chloe Hooper, The Tall Man is a highly nuanced and penetrative account of the author’s observations while on Palm Island during the inquiry into the death in police custody of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee.

‘On 19th November 2004, a drunk Aboriginal man had been arrested for swearing at police. Les
Dec 25, 2014 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not written for Australians, but I think it should have been. If you can get past the 'foreign' language (kitchen wipes? degrees fahrenheit?) and the copious definitions, explanations, and sometimes tedious background stories (which tested my patience for the first two thirds of the book) as well as the sometimes overdrawn reflections and the authors sappy crush on Tony Koch... the story is brilliant. After wading through the first two thirds I was totally hooked. I even shed a tea ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Twistedrib rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this while on holiday in Townsville, QLD and north (the area the book is set in). I put off starting it for a bit because I knew the subject matter would be depressing but once I got started I was totally involved. It is a well written and very readable book, bringing together past and present. I liked the way the book is laid out, how she presents different peoples' views of events and how she moves the story forward. It really helps you understand how much the past still affects today. ...more
Andrew Esposito
Aug 27, 2015 Andrew Esposito rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is possible that Chloe Hooper has produced one of the best examples of journalistic non-fiction in Australian literature. The Tall Man follows the true account of the death of the aboriginal Cameron Doomadgee while in police custody in 2004 on Palm island, off Far North Queensland, Australia. The subsequent trial of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley forms the basis of the novel and Hooper provides the reader with a first-hand account of the proceedings and after-math.
The Tall Man may appear to hav
Samantha Brown
Aug 07, 2013 Samantha Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite and devastating.
Dec 31, 2015 Liss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Tall Man, Chloe Hooper chronicles the death in custody of Aboriginal man Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee and subsequent events, including the trial of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. Doomadgee died within an hour of being arrested for swearing by Hurley, due to extensive internal injuries which the police attributed to a fall. Hooper illustrates the complexities of life on Palm Island, where the Aboriginal community comprises of people from many different clans. Most current residents descend fr ...more
D.A. Cairns
Jun 09, 2015 D.A. Cairns rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had been on my 'to read' list for many years, having been recommended in Men's Health magazine's list of 50 must read books. Finally, I read it and the reason it took so long to do so is inconsequential.

Quotes on the cover use words such as 'riveting', 'engrossing' and 'powerful' and I can add no better adjectives. I was hooked from the first page, captivated not just by the story itself but by Hooper's writing style. Simple and strong. Tall Man is non fiction , and therefore all the m
Rob Manwaring
Aug 25, 2009 Rob Manwaring rated it it was amazing
Blimey, this book had quite a profound effect on me, and is a searing indictment of modern day Australia. Cameron Doomadgee, an Aboriginal man, was killed in police custody by Senior Sgt Chris Hurley in 2004, and the book follows the main course of events: Doomadgee's death, the typically botched police 'investigation' (conducted by close friends of Hurley), the subsequent riot on Palm Island, the broader inquiry and the final court case against Hurley. The lack of conviction against Hurley is a ...more
Bree T
On the 19th of November in 2004 on Palm Island, an Aboriginal community on Great Palm Island off the coast of Queensland Australia, a 36 year old Aboriginal man was walking along a road, a bit under the influence. A local white police officer, Snr Sgt Chris Hurley was escorting a local Aboriginal woman back to her home to get her insulin after she had been assaulted by her de facto partner. The Aboriginal man, known as Mulrunji, abused the police officer and his partner, the police liaison offic ...more
Fay Bee
Jan 13, 2016 Fay Bee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be compulsory reading for all Australians and people who live in Australia.

The ugly side of race relations is shown here, warts and all, in tragic but unfortunately frequently occurring circumstances.

This is the author's account of the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee and the arresting officer Chris Hurley, accused of his death. The story is interspersed with Aboriginal beliefs and culture (old and present day), and the "culture" of the police who close ranks and harbour in
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Chloe Hooper is an Australian author. Her first novel, A Child’s Book of True Crime (2002), was short-listed for the Orange Prize for Literature and was a New York Times Notable Book. In 2005, she turned to reportage and the next year won a Walkley Award for her writing on the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island, an Aboriginal community off the north-east coast of Australia. The T ...more
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