Australia: Rock band self-censored over fear of influencing trial

7 May 2007
The Australian rock band Powderfinger changed the lyrics to one of its songs on its forthcoming album over fears it could prejudice an upcoming court case – or over fears of legal complaint

An Aboriginal 36-year-old man, Mulrunji Doomadgee, died in custody on Palm Island in north Queensland in 2004, and Police Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was charged with manslaughter and assault.

Lead singer of Powderfinger, Bernard Fanning, wrote a song which was inspired by the case, and in the original second verse of the band’s new, yet unpublished song ‘Black Tears’, he reportedly sung,

    • “An island watchhouse bed
    A black man’s lying dead”

The legal team which will defend Chris Hurley in court Townsville this June announced in May 2007 that it intended to lodge a complaint about the lyrics of ‘Black Tears’ to Queensland Attorney-General Kerry Shine. Lawyer Glenn Cranny told News Limited that the timing of the album’s release, 10 days before the commencement of Hurley’s two-week trial, was a concern, stating that “the content and proposed timing of the song’s release raises some serious concerns regarding Mr Hurley’s trial.”

“In the interests of removing even the slightest suggestion of any prejudice, we have included an alternative version on our album. I hope that the song still has its desired effect, which is to bring attention to the obvious disadvantage that is still being suffered by Aboriginal people in this country and in particular, the issue of Indigenous deaths in custody,” said singer Bernard Fanning.

The title of their album is ‘Dream Days at the Hotel Existence’.




Australian Broadcasting Corporation – 4 May 2007:
‘Powderfinger backs down on ‘Black Tears’ lyrics’

The Australian – 2 May 2007:

‘Powderfinger faces Palm Island legal complaint’

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