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Freedom granted for longest-serving Indigenous prisoner

Jacob Shteyman -

One of Australia's longest-serving prisoners will walk free from jail after spending four decades behind bars for a crime he says he did not commit.

The Parole Board of South Australia has granted Derek Bromley release on parole after he spent 40 years in prison for the murder of Adelaide man Stephen Docoza.

Bromley, and his co-accused John Karpany, were sentenced to life imprisonment after Mr Docoza's body was found floating in the River Torrens in 1984.

But the Narungga Ngarrindjeri man - the longest-serving Indigenous prisoner in the country - has maintained his innocence throughout and has unsuccessfully appealed his conviction on several occasions.

In his latest appeal to the High Court, Bromley claimed testimony provided by the prosecution's central witness Gary Carter was unreliable.

The appeal was knocked back, but two out of the five judges dissented against the decision, finding there was "a substantial miscarriage of justice" because the trial judge gave inadequate directions to the jury.

"There is, at least, a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted," Justice James Edelman and Justice Simon Steward said in December.

Despite initially displaying very poor institutional behaviour, Bromley, now in his 60s, has turned his life around, said Parole Board chair Frances Nelson KC.

"He was involved in a number of riots, he had convictions for assault in prison," she told AAP on Thursday.

"But in later years he has changed significantly. He is the first to acknowledge that he's a different man, and he is.

"His behaviour in the last few years has been exemplary."

Bromley will remain in prison for at least 60 days following the parole board's decision, in which time the attorney-general, South Australian Police or the Commissioner for Victims' Rights can seek a review of the decision.

His lawyer, Karen Stanley, said he was ready to re-enter society having spent the last decade of his sentence working in the community as a firefighter.

"His job is to protect the community," she told AAP before the decision was announced.

"Not only is the community not at risk if he is released on parole, but the community protection is enhanced."

Bromley has also taken part in rehabilitation programs run by correctional services and the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement to reduce his risk of reoffending.

Ms Nelson said Bromley had very good post-release plans and strong community supports.

"In his case, he has really been out and about in the community working with CFS for some time, so his rehabilitation has been very thorough," she said.

As he was handed a life sentence, Bromley will remain on parole for the rest of his life.

Jacob Shteyman - AAP

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