PALM ISLAND

A few miles off the North Queensland coast (Australia) is a small island that is apparently not shown on any maps. It was first discovered by Cook on Palm Sunday and named Palm Island. From a distance it looks like a paradise sitting in the sea.

It was to this island that white (British) settlers, both last century and this, dispatched unwanted Aborigines who got in their way on the mainland. It was not necessary for them to have done anything wrong indeed the majority of them had done nothing wrong at all. The children aged 6 and above were separated from their parents upon arrival and each was only allowed to see the other once a year. When in time somebody failed to show up for that meeting you became aware that sometime during the year your mother, father, daughter or son had died. One aging native of the island said that she had no idea where her parents were buried. She only hoped that perhaps one day she might find a photograph of them.

There were 140 different dialects taken to the island but all language other than English was forbidden. If you were a true native of Australia and spoke your own language you were flogged. If you failed to turn up at church on a Sunday you were flogged. If you went to the wrong church on a Sunday you were flogged. If you went fishing without a permit you were flogged. If you walked down Mango Avenue, reserved for whites only, you were flogged; and so on. This was the white missionary way of teaching Christianity.

In the 1883 an agent of Barnums Circus turned up on the island and took one of the Aborigine leaders (Tambo) back to America where he was forced to dance at the front of processions along side an elephant of all things. When Tambo died in 1884 he was embalmed and shown at circuses and novelty theatres as a freak.

Tambo's body was found in 1993 in a mortuary in Cleveland USA and flown back to Palm Island to be buried. Unfortunately by this time there were no residents left on the island who knew the correct procedures for burying a high ranking aborigine. Tambo was buried with as much respect as possible but unfortunately without the correct ceremony and almost certainly at the wrong angle to the sun. This is very unlucky.

Now Palm Island is a more dangerous place that New York!! It is a ghetto . Prices of goods are twice that on the mainland. The residents own nothing but the local pub called The Canteen. There is 88% unemployment and moral is extremely low. Of course the locals, all 3,500 of them, still believe deeply in dream time which is the one thing the brave British failed to knock out of them. So when Tambo (known to Palm Islanders as 'The Hairy Man') visits them in their dreams and offers them a rope they hang themselves. The suicide rate by hanging is the highest in the world per head of population.

The last governor of Queensland (for 41 years) said; "They are the luckiest people in the World. We have had two world wars and they were never asked to fight in either of them"

 

 

1. In Mission Bay, beside the beach

There stands a mango tree

Where children play the hanging game

To set poor Tambo free.

Here nine in ten are unemployed

There's nothing left but pain,

So when the Canteen has turned out

They meet the ghost again.

 

Where tropical rain forests are ringed by silver sand

Surely this has got to be a good and a peaceful land.

Where maps cannot locate it, a paradise in the sea

Palm Island, Palm Island, divulge your mystery

For the hairy man comes in the dead of night

With a possum belt round his waist

His eyes they glow like embers

From his wild and wizen face

And he smiles a smile such a knowing smile

As you dream your dreams of hope

Then without a word as he moves away

He hands to you the rope.

 

2. Here British folk, and missionaries

Flogged convicts day and night

Abducted aborigines

Soon learnt wrong from right

But they'll never know where their mother lies

Or how their father died

But they all recall the loneliness

And the many long nights they cried.

 

3. Oh do I hear the penal bell

And the rattle of the chains

And do I smell the scent of death

For those who now remain

For now these convict children

Have children of their own

And a ghetto tropic island

Bears the fruit of seeds long sown.

 

 

© Joe Stead - Fore Lane Music - February 1998

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