Palm Island: Through a Long Lens
Based on extensive archival and oral history research as well as on personal connections with the community, this volume challenges the prevailing negative view of Palm Island, Australia, and argues against the failure to address today’s continuing Indigenous disadvantage. This substantial history recounts some of the most explosive episodes in Queensland history, including the 1930 rampage by the first Superintendent, the community-wide strike by reserve workers in 1957, and the tragic death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee, which triggered civil unrest within the Indigenous community. Often heart-wrenching and at times uplifting, this account is essential reading for anyone interested in the dynamics of power and privilege and their contestation.
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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
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As Straight as A Gun Barrel
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