A Nyoongah man who alleges he was tortured by police has invited the Commonwealth and his two attackers to take part in a traditional Aboriginal healing ceremony.
David Helmhout was one of eight men repeatedly sprayed with capsicum foam by two Australian Federal Police officers after being detained at the ACT Watch House for being intoxicated in 2006.
Both officers were found guilty of the incidents and have left the force.
In 2010, lawyers Ken Cush and Associates launched a class action on behalf of the men, alleging negligence, systemic abuse and police misconduct.
The men are seeking damages in the Supreme Court, claiming they were tortured and subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading conduct by the officers and, by extension, the AFP and the Commonwealth.
But Mr Helmhout, who has traditional connections to the Yamatji people, does not simply want compensation, he also seeks the restoration of his dignity, with the parties participating in a traditional healing ceremony in Perth.
Mr Helmhout’s barrister, Anthony Hopkins, said the Commonwealth had been invited, as part of the proceedings, to take part in the healing ritual.
The Commonwealth is considering its position on the invitation.
Mr Hopkins said the ceremony would be a chance to participate in a two-way healing process between the victim and the defendants.
"If the Commonwealth refuses to consider that, Mr Helmhout still seeks to continue with the traditional healing in a ceremony taking place in the absence of the Commonwealth," Mr Hopkins said.
"It would certainly be desirable and in the interests of restoration that the Commonwealth do engage, and engage in way that acknowledges the restoration of Mr Helmhout’s dignity involves an engagement in a process in Aboriginal terms."
Mr Hopkins said a direction of this kind had not been sought in an Australian civil matter before, although there were examples of New Zealand and Canadian authorities engaging with indigenous healing and restorative justice practices.
"It’s ... not so innovative when it comes to the criminal courts, which are quite used to dealing with the potential involved in customary healing."
He said the proposal offered the potential to bring together Australia’s traditional and contemporary legal systems.
Mr Helmhout said he was excited about the prospect of the ceremony.
"It will put a lot of anger behind me and heal a lot of anger I’ve had inside me for the past 20 to 30 years with the police," he said
"It will sort things out in my own head. I won’t have that anger in meany more and I can go forward with life."