The First Step Feb. 2011 - Page 19

As we are situated in Queensland, it is rather important to be aware of the issues that are in our own backyard. Councillor Rosina Norman said that “all these people [on the Island] here are walking time bombs waiting to explode” The conditions on Palm Island are not improving . and we need to take action to ensure they do. People do not deserve to live in these conditions and instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills, spend it in the Island’s reform. The available services available on Palm Island are suitable for a population of 500 – peak figures are six times that. Palm Island’s history is not just restricted to the 2004 death in custody. The Island was 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 in Queensland during the frontier. Officially it was proclaimed as a “penitentiary for troublesome cases” Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s . Palm Island became the receiving centre for more than half the people removed to government reserves in Queensland, mainly for trivial offences. Hope Neill, a Murri Artist who grew up on a Cherbourg reserve stated “we lived in terror of imprisonment on Palm Island.”In her book, Joanne Watson says “in a sense, it was a detention centre for political prisioners – those who resisted colonisation” It’s . controversial past appears to have followed through to current time. The way it was established, it’s no surprise that today, Palm Island is still one of the most poverty stricken places in Australia. Bill Rosser in his 1978 memoir explains his first time landing on the island in 1974: Within twenty-four hours of my landing on the island, my jaw dropped from amazement. A black fellow was fined $40 for being drunk, another was convicted and fined for ‘arguing’. A sister knifed her brother, a man belted his daughter over the head with a lump of wood. A young man shot himself in the stomach, another was shot through the arm. Nothing was ever published about these events. The outside world simply didn’t know what was going on there because nothing is published about the goings-on over there. The Queensland Government would not, and dare not, publish these things. They are the enforcers of the heinous Queensland Aboriginal Act which prescribes the life on Palm Island. As Joanne Watson explains it, Palm Islanders have been subjected to the whims of ‘benevolent dictators’, whose existences have each been centrally supported by the Queensland