Brutal street fights are boiling over into tribal clashes.
Brutal street fights are boiling over into tribal clashes.

Communities at war in ‘fair fight’ brawls

BARE-KNUCKLE street boxing, known as "fair fights", is boiling over into violent tribal clashes in the "pressure cooker" of Queensland's townships.

Footage obtained by The Courier-Mail shows mostly young indigenous women, and men, in brutal street bouts, some that turn into mass brawls, at seven of the state's remote former missions since the new year.

Dozens of onlookers, some armed with fence palings and baseball bats, and many of them children, can be heard baying for blood and screaming foul obscenities to goad on the opposing ranks of rival clans.

Brutal street fights are boiling over into tribal clashes.
Brutal street fights are boiling over into tribal clashes.

Two combatants go toe-to-toe, usually bare-knuckle and barefoot, until one admits defeat and walks away or is knocked out.

Some of the fights filmed in Doomadgee, Mornington Island, Palm Island and Cherbourg over the past two weeks can be seen turning into a wild melee as elders or police try to pull apart warring factions.

Aboriginal leaders yesterday called for an end to the violence and a ban on the generations-old practice of "fair fights".

Long-standing tribal feuds and land disputes between traditional owners are often blamed for the fighting, police and elders say.

But most often it is alcohol-fuelled or because of sexual jealousies, boredom, gossip, heat and isolation.

Aboriginal leaders yesterday called for an end to the violence and a ban on the generations-old practice of “fair fights”.
Aboriginal leaders yesterday called for an end to the violence and a ban on the generations-old practice of “fair fights”.

Palm Island Aboriginal Council mayor Alf Lacey, who leads the anti-violence campaign, said there was "no excuse" for the barbarity in the "pressure cooker" of the state's 17 discrete indigenous communities.

"It should not be tolerated, in this day and age, it only perpetuates wider community violence and social unrest,'' Mr Lacey said.

"It also cements it in the young brains of children that street violence is the way to go, as we try to make inroads against domestic violence.

Aboriginal leaders yesterday called for an end to the violence.
Aboriginal leaders yesterday called for an end to the violence.

"Public bare-knuckling boxing matches are not acceptable in Queen Street Mall in Brisbane, or any other town in the state.

"Our indigenous communities should be no different.''

Queensland Police, who faced criticism for not intervening in a street fight in Aurukun last year, told how they had to tread a line of "cultural sensitivity" to not risk more widespread violence or attacks on officers.

Long-standing tribal feuds and land disputes between traditional owners are often blamed for the fighting.
Long-standing tribal feuds and land disputes between traditional owners are often blamed for the fighting.

"You can get two people fighting and 100 watching,'' Acting Far North Assistant Police Commissioner Kevin Guteridge said last night.

"It is often retaliation for a social media post. There is a significant risk that people do die from being punched in the head, we've seen it happen.

"Police don't condone or tolerate violence. But we are dealing with a very unique part of the world, and we have to exercise a high degree of caution to prevent these fights from flaring-up and becoming more wide scale.

"They are not only unsettling for police and ambulance officers attending but for the entire community," he said.

Doomadgee Youth Hub co-ordinator Wade Charles said he took stress leave because of violence, gambling and unrest in the tiny township in the Gulf country and had now had his position terminated.

Opposing ranks of rival clans are goaded on by onlookers.
Opposing ranks of rival clans are goaded on by onlookers.

"I'm very aware of a volatile environment and how it can become very unsafe very quickly,'' the 38-year-old indigenous youth worker said.

"You can see footage of four or five fights in Doomadgee posted to YouTube from the past two weeks alone.

"I don't think it is the best way to deal with things. Mediation might be better,'' Mr Charles said.



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