News

Police praised on bail compromise in native title row

Wit Booka, also known as Gary Tomlinson.
Wit Booka, also known as Gary Tomlinson. Craig Warhurst

A MAN facing a week in jail after refusing to recognise Queensland law, emerged smiling from Gympie Watchhouse yesterday afternoon.

Gary Tomlinson had appeared in court under his tribal name Wit Boooka.

After a weekend in custody charged with trespass, he told the court he maintained a refusal to provide fingerprints and DNA.

Yesterday, his supporters praised Gympie police for helping reach a compromise in what may be Australia's newest Aboriginal land rights battleground.

Gympie police yesterday found the common ground in what had seemed an intractable dispute between the law and Aboriginal sovereignty advocate Wit Boooka.

Boooka agreed to meet a bail condition that he provide identification details, including fingerprints and DNA, after two important concessions from Gympie Magistrates Court and police.

Magistrate M Baldwin told Boooka he would face a week in jail if he did not sign bail documents.

She said she would allow him to sign his tribal name "if that's an issue".

But she said he would still be required to provide police with identification details, including fingerprints and DNA.

New Gympie police Inspector Stephen Donnelly and police station officer in charge Gregg Davey helped negotiate a compromise which allowed Boooka to note on the documents that his agreement to the conditions did not imply any concession that Queensland law had any legitimate power over him.

A clearly relieved Mr Boooka emerged from the Watchhouse about 4pm, free to return to his Southside home and family.

And in a rare display of goodwill, his supporters praised the intelligent and decent approach of Gympie police.

Mr Boooka found himself allegedly on the wrong side of the law after he and supporters "reclaimed" the Belli Park Mimburi site, which had been used for Aboriginal gatherings after being bought by the state government for the proposed Traveston Crossing dam.

Since that plan was knocked out by then federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, the land was leased to a grazier.

Mr Boooka's supporters claimed cattle on the property were destroying its value as a sacred site.

The Southside family man found himself under arrest on Friday for trespass.

When he refused to supply fingerprints and DNA, he found himself also charged with obstructing police.

His bail, granted at a special court sitting on Saturday, was conditional on his providing the ID material.

After a weekend in custody, he yesterday continued to maintain his refusal.

Mrs Baldwin told him: "There are many people who come within the system who may not be found guilty.

"You can protest all you like, but nobody else will be kept in custody except you.

"I don't want you to be in jail for seven days," she said, remanding him to next Monday. "I don't make the law, I just process it," she said.

"I'm happy for him to sign with the name Boooka, if that's an issue."

"I'm just here to protect our sites," Mr Boooka said on his release.

"We've been getting everything destroyed for so long. Seems like the government doesn't care about our culture.

"So I decided to take a stand against them.

"And I hope more people join," he said. But an afternoon of negotiation with police saw an agreement which allowed both sides to achieve what they wanted.

Gympie Times

Topics:  aboriginal indigeneous native title



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