Three weeks ago I spent most of the week travelling around far northern Queensland. It started with a flight to Townsville to talk with a group of people about the Senate Inquiry I initiated into the Stolen Wages issue.
I also took the chance to go over to Palm Island again to give some of the locals there an update on the Senate Inquiry and also hear from them on other matters of concern to them. The people on Palm Island were among the most severely disadvantaged by the practice of underpaying, non-paying or government misappropriation of lawful entitlements. I have recently released a new postcard promoting the Democrats’ campaign for indigenous equality and the importance of listening more to the views of indigenous people about how to achieve that goal.
The girl whose face is on the front of the postcard is from Palm Island, so I also wanted to thank her and her parents for giving permission to use her photo. I think the photo is a lovely one, but I’d have to say she’s even cuter in person.
Perhaps it is understandable that many reports about Aboriginal communities focus on the negative, but it is also very misleading, as it does obscure the many positives that are present in most communities. Palm Island suffers from this more than most.
For example, the difficulties faced by the people there were recently the subject of a major article in The Observer newspaper in the UK. One should not ignore the problems, although we should not ignore the causes of them. I doubt there would be a single Indigneous person on the Island who has not had to endure multiple traumatic experiences happening to themselves or a number of their immediate family.
However, we should not forget that there are still many capable people there who are keen to build better lives for their community, and many happy children too, despite the very many traumas the people have experienced over so many years. They have ideas and knowledge about what their community needs and how best to get those needs met.
Not surprisingly, these ideas usually do not include having a bunch of bureaucrats and politicians telling them from afar what they need to do without bothering to listen to them. After all, the record of governments and bureaucrats on this issue is mostly one of catastrophic failures over many decades, so it is not unreasonable to suggest it could be worth giving a few other people’s ideas a go – not least those at community level. I hope by having a smiling girl from Palm Island on the postcard, it will remind me whenever I speak about the Democrats’ campaign for indigenous equality to mention the positive stories and people in Aboriginal communities, including Palm Island.
PS: Sadly, just a week after I was there, the Island community was hit by another death. Being continually immersed in suffering and trauma for decades on end is a very debilitating thing – the strength of spirit required to have survived all that should not be underestimated.