I’ve been in Townsville and Cairns this week, helping to publicise the local services featured in the Success Stories in Indigenous Health put out by ANTaR, which I wrote about in this post, as well as held some meetings with a range of people about housing and Indigenous issues.
I also visited Palm Island for the first time since the rally for justice was held there late last year. There were a lot of NAIDOC celebrations happening around the place, which added some vibrancy to the day. I caught up with a range of different people and groups, just trying to get a snapshot of where various things were at.
Almost everyone I met with at some stage mentioned the federal government’s intervention in the Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory, and whether it might be a harbinger of some sort of a new wave of intervention in communities like theirs.
There is also a lot of uncertainty about whether the Queensland governments own latest bout of authoritarianism, the imminent forced amalgamations of a range of local councils, might also sweep up places like Palm Island and other discreet Aboriginal councils which exist around Queensland. This would mean Palm Island being swallowed up into Townsville on the mainland, which may also be about to become larger by amalgamating with its ‘twin city’ of Thuringowa.
There may well be a lot of sense in amalgamating Townsville and Thuringowa, but I find it hard to believe there would be a forced amalgamation with Palm Island, especially given the existing complexities with land title which exist on Palm. However, in this era of well entrenched, long-serving governments with no checks and controls on their actions, who knows how far they’ll go.
One of the places on Palm I dropped into was the Bwgcolman Community School, which is the State School on the Island. I got to meet Josephine, who is the young girl whose picture is on the postcard I’ve used for over a year to help promote one of my core messages – to put the First Australians first in our political priorities. I’ve had a wide range of postcard printed up over the years for various issues and campaigns, but this one has always been by far the most popular with the public, so I thought the least I could do was thank her for letting me use her photo (with parental permission too)