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Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,186 ratings  ·  257 reviews
In 2004 on Palm Island, an Aboriginal settlement in the "Deep North" of Australia, a thirty-six-year-old man named Cameron Doomadgee was arrested for swearing at a white police officer. Forty minutes later he was dead in the jailhouse. The police claimed he'd tripped on a step, but his liver was ruptured. The main suspect was Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley, a charismat ...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Scribner Book Company (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Nancy Oakes
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Emma Hassan
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book broke my heart. Incredible writing and such an insight into the continued failings of our legal and political system for Indigenous Australians. To read this during the current debate surrounding changing the date further highlights how far we have to go towards any sort of reconciliation or healing as a nation. I highly recommend reading this book.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Finished: 23.12.2018
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A+++
#AWW2018 Challenge
Page turner is why:

My Thoughts
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Until I met Boe, I’d never even heard of Palm Island.’

Palm Island lies off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Island is roughly half way between Brisbane and the tip of Cape York. Palm Island, home to many Indigenous people, is a settlement with a troubled history.

On 19 November 2004, Cameron Domadgee was arrested on Palm Island by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. He may have been arrested for swearing at the police, he may have been arrested for singing ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ (a one-hit won
Sarah Clement
Feb 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lyn Elliott
This is essential reading for anyone interested in race relations in Australia, or police manipulation of power and civil rights anywhere. Hooper works with material from documents, court hearing and interviews with community members and others in her efforts to reconstruct and analyse what happened on the night that Cameron Doomadgee died in the Palm Island Police Station - and in the long and desperate series of events that have happened since, and which continue to have ripples as I write in ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A revealing and disturbing look at the difficult challenges facing indigenous communities in out of the way places of regional Australia. Largely hidden from the view of mainstream Australia our indigenous brothers and sisters have a dreadful existence. I could easily blame 'them' and dismiss the issue (as many of 'us' do) but that achieves nothing. Peter Davis, one of the legal representatives of the aboriginal community on Palm Island said towards the end of the book: "(I) knew that a blackfe ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


“Cops, Norman Mailer wrote, ‘contain explosive contradictions within themselves. Supposed to be law-enforcers, they tend to conceive of themselves as the law.”

This horrendous crime took place in a conservative, tropical paradise, a place where they do things a little differently and don’t appreciate outsiders telling them how to behave or how to run their business, a world of long established homophobia, racism, and misogyny, book banning and institutionalised police corr
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
T.D. Whittle
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, australia-nz
The copy of this book that I have has the original blue cover with a red palm leaf on it and it is called The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island. I prefer that title to the other edition’s – which was called Tall Man: the Death of Doomadgee – because it broadened the scope, which I believe 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 Austr ...more
Harrison Vesey
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
As an Australian, it's impossible to recommend this book highly enough. It speaks powerfully and unflinchingly to the grave racial injustice ongoing in this beautiful but deeply flawed nation.
Chloe Hooper is a stunningly gifted writer and a brilliant journalist, who poured her heart and mind into this moving novel. The incredible amount of research that went into the reporting is matched by the care Hooper has for the family of Cameron Domadgee and the Aboriginal people of Palm Island. Her rare
Michael McEvoy
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Starting with a positive: I enjoyed that the title ‘The Tall Man’ referred directly to the policeman under investigation (with a height of 2 m), and also to the tall spirit man in aboriginal dreamtime stories.
Now into the review. I found the book hard to get into, and am attributing this to the writing style; it often felt like I was reading a fictional story rather than a recounting of factual events. Her descriptions of people focussed unnecessarily on physical characteristics (things along t
Louise Nguyen
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, however it did not match my expectations. Chloe hooper’s writing failed to captivate me; for example when she was describing the riot, an intense event, I struggled to visualise the scene or even maintain interest. Most pages I needed to read more than once due to my focus drifting elsewhere. I also didn’t like how emotive her language was and how she would insert herself into the story, considering it was meant to read like “investigative journalism”. For such an ...more
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be compelling reading and a "must read" for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of our Indigenous peoples and how European settlement has impacted on their culture and lifestyle. Answers - maybe not. Understanding of the problems - helpful. ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Book Club: Louise's Selection

I was really interested to get into this book when Louise announced it as her selection. I don't remember this specific incident occurring but I do remember a number of government forced initiatives introduced that were mentioned toward the end of the book. I was hoping to get a deep insight into the troubled relationship between our peoples, especially of that in the top end of Australia but I was left slightly disappointed.

It is essentially a report and it definite
Annika R
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I don't usually read non-fiction, so when I saw this book on my school reading list I anticipated a long, monotonous read. However, this could not be further from the truth. Though I did initially find the simultaneous introduction of numerous people early on in the book confusing, I was quickly swept up in the writer's beautiful depictions of their lives, personalities and Aboriginal culture on Palm Island. These would range from describing seemingly mundane tasks such as fishing to recounting ...more
Natasha (jouljet)
This is a heartaching read around the injustices Aboriginal Australian's experience in life, but certainly when interacting with the law and it's representatives. The case of the death of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island in November 2004, the unrest that occurred afterwards which put the case into national awareness, and the resulting Coronial and criminal trial. Chloe Hooper follows the case, and gains insight into the stories of the 2 men, and the Palm Island community.

The examination of polic
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The extraordinary story of a death, a policeman, an island and a country. After following the case and its main characters for over two and a half years, Chloe Hooper does a remarkable job of writing this story with devoted observation; prepared to pursue the story to its bitter (and it really is a quite bitter, albeit predictable) end.

There's a line towards the end of the book where Hooper, almost in a state of hopelessness, states: “I had wanted to know more about my country and now I knew mor
Chloe Meyer
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I’ve read. It was infuriating and devastating, but was written so well.
Matthew Hickey
In this exploration of the events behind the death of Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island (and the subsequent trial of Sgt Christopher Hurley for the death), Chloe Hooper reveals a clear personal bias. It's not a deliberate disclosure per se, but her personal revelations are clear enough for a critical reader to appreciate that this account is not an academic or objective one.

Hooper delivers some really interesting insights into the cultural history of Queensland aborigines and also provid
Robin Hemley
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 14, 2014 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
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Six stars. So well written and a good mix of historical detail with the more recent events of Cameron Doomadgee's death in custody. Kids should be reading this in school. Hooper touches on the problems that confront police working in remote communities as well as why some of those problems occur. So many Australians still use the "It happened so long ago, why can't they just get over it?" argument to dismiss complaints by Indigenous Australians. However, children were still being taken from pare ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know when you know how the story ends but you are drawn into the story again because it is told so eloquently?

I read The Tall Man in a day, I couldn't put it down. Life stopped while I devoured each page. As a lawyer, who lives and breathes social justice I observed with bated breath the entire tragedy unfold, having seen the gross prejudices and unprecedented violence inflicted upon Aboriginal people in real time.

Chloe Hooper is a gifted and intelligent story teller. Her ability to tell t
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tall Man is absolutely essential reading for every single Australian!
The Tall Man is completely engrossing. Hooper travelled to Palm Island, alongside the lawyers appearing on behalf of the Palm Island Aboriginal Council in The Qld State Coroner's Inquest into the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee, after he was excessively forcibly detained by Police Snr Sgt Chris Hurley. The author expertly sets up the setting and background of the people on the Island.
Hooper has incredible skill in conveying very confronting and conflicting issue in a readable way. There's
A very useful book. Stylistically very easy to read; emotionally not so much. The state of aboriginal peoples’ lives is a national shame. I was shocked at how recently the ‘mission’/protector system was still going on Palm Island. People don’t seem to understand how systematically aboriginal people have been screwed over, and how current those traumas are. It’s not just the losses of land 200 years ago. This is a really sad book.
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary, harsh review of events on Palm Island. Compelling reading
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I have been overly guided by Garner's courtroom coverage, or spoilt by the sophistication of Hooper's later work 'The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire'. Despite the salient story, something came up short here. ...more
Dec 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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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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