Palm Island: Through a Long Lens

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Aboriginal Studies Press, 2010 - History - 212 pages
2 Reviews
In November 2004, Mulrunji Doomadgee's tragic death triggered civil unrest within the Indigenous community of Palm Island. This led to the first prosecution of a Queensland police officer in relation to a death in custody. Despite prolonged media attention, much of it negative and full of stereotypes, few Australians know the turbulent history of "Australia's Alcatraz", a political prison set up to exile Queensland's 'troublesome blacks'. In Palm Island, Joanne Watson gives the first substantial history of the island from pre-contact to the present, set against a background of some of the most explosive episodes in Queensland history. The repressive regimes were under the guise of protectionism. But police control continues, and there is a continuing failure to address the causes of ongoing Indigenous disadvantage. Palm Island, often heart-wrenching and at times uplifting, is a study in the dynamics of power and privilege, and how it is resisted.
  

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Published by the innovative Aboriginal Studies Press, Palm Island is the first substantial history of the island from pre-European invasion to the present. Exploring some of the most explosive and intriguing events in Queensland’s history, Watson’s compelling narrative is the outcome of more than 20 years of oral history and archival research, including a comprehensive examination of church, court and administrative records and diverse media reports.
Yet this compelling history explores the rich tapestry of humour and hope, as well as helplessness and hate, and especially the combined existence of powerlessness and resilience that characterises the indigenous people of Palm Island.
Watson’s thorough research demonstrates that the island community has had an extraordinary past, a history at the same time “rich, staggeringly brave, stoic and humorous, tragic and inspiring”.
As historian Rosalind Kidd rightly points out, Watson’s work on Palm Island and its people is “an important caution to those who mistake official statements for historical truths”.
Indeed it is primarily talented, empathetic and hard-working historians such as Joanne Watson who can best write Australian history.
Ross Fitzgerald, Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum 17.4.10
 

Contents

A Duty to Protect Everyone
1
Out from the Big Swag
17
From Carpet Snake Country
24
A State of Constant Apprehension
36
As Straight as A Gun Barrel
55
Fiscal Restraint
76
Fantome Island Phantom Welfare
92
We Couldnt Tolerate Any More
102
A Certain Paradise for
121
Heady Days
135
Our Day
146
Conclusion Calling Palm Island Home
157
Notes
162
Bibliography
180
Index
197
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Joanne Watson is a writer and a teacher in the fields of Australian social history, workplace relations, cultural studies, and social health. She has more than 30 years of experience working with Indigenous people. She currently works at the Metropolitan South Institute of Technical and Further Education.

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