‘Palm Island: Through a Long Lens’ – Joanne Watson

Palm Island: Through a Long Lens by Joanne Watson –

THE shock headlines in 2004 marked the first time most non- indigenous Australians had been alerted to the existence of Australia’s largest Aboriginal community, Palm Island. Visitors to Palm are generally mesmerised by the island’s stunning physical beauty: its aqua seas, postcard perfect skies, lush tropical rainforests and white sandy beaches.

Most soon discover that this beauty is belied by the chronic poverty. Basic amenities are not available. A population of more than 2000 people is squeezed into 200 homes.Unresolved historical issues were opened like wounds in the wake of the death in custody.

Established in 1918 as a prison camp for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it became the receiving centre for survivors of clashes between colonisers and indigenous people on the Queensland frontier.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Palm became the receiving centre for more than half the people removed to government reserves in Queensland, largely for trivial offences. Written records provide scant explanations such as: “causing trouble”, “for their own protection” or “for the good of other Aborigines”.

Others were simply labelled “a troublesome character”, “incorrigible”, “very dangerous”, “destitute”, “a larrikin”, “a wanderer” and “a communist”.

Yet Palm Islanders have survived decades of working conditions akin to slavery. The island has produced some of the first tertiary-qualified Aboriginal nurses, teachers, visual and performing artists, outstanding sportsmen and community workers in the state.
Joanne Watson
Edited extract.

Joanne Watson – Palm Island: Through a Long Lens Details:

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