Palm Island, Queensland


Palm Island, Queensland

]

The Palm Island Community Council became the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council in 2004 under the Queensland "Local Government (Community Government Areas) Act". Like the other Aboriginal Shire Councils that were created, this Act gave the Council full status as a Local Government on a par with other Councils in Queensland.

Notable events

World War 2 use as a Catalina airbase

In July 1943 the US Navy built a Naval Air Station at Palm Island, with facilities to operate and overhaul Catalina flying boats and patrol boats. The air station was built at Wallaby point, an isolated area of Palm Island, overlooking a large stretch of sheltered water in Challenger Bay, which was ideal for flying boat operations.cite web |url=http://ozatwar.com/airfields/palmislandnavalairstation.htm |title=PALM ISLAND NAVAL AIR STATION PALM ISLAND, QLD NEAR TOWNSVILLE DURING WW2 |accessdate=2007-10-03 |author=Peter Dunn |date=2004-05-22 |accessdate=2007-01-24 ] The station was built by two officers and 122 enlisted men of Company C of the 55th Seabee Construction Battalion, and a similar detachment that left Brisbane later with 1,500 tons of construction material.

A 1,000 man camp was constructed at the point. Concrete flying boat ramps to the ocean were built with a tarmac parking area for up to 12 flying boats. Moorings for 18 flying boats were provided in Challenger Bay, and 3 nose hangers were also built. Coral aggregate from coral reefs at low tide was used to manufacture concrete.

A series of fuel tanks were constructed to hold 60,000 barrels of aviation fuel. Steel rail lines were installed to launch the PBY Catalinas back into the water.

By September 1943 the majority of the facilities were finished, and large numbers of operational and maintenance personnel began to arrive to commission the station. The Palm Island US Naval Air Station was fully operational from 25 October 1943, and could repair an average of four aircraft per day. The last personnel of the 55th Seabees left Palm Island on 8 November 1943.

US Navy Patrol Squadron 101, Patrol Wing 10, with 8 PBY Catalinas as briefly stationed at Palm Island in December 1943, before relocating to Perth.

US Navy Patrol Squadron VP-11 arrived at the station in late December 1943 where they were taken off combat duties. The squadron comprised 13 PBY-5 Catalinas, 46 officers and 99 enlisted men. They carried out training and routine flights between Port Moresby, Samari and Brisbane. They were assigned to Fleet Air Wing 17 while at Palm Island, and left in February 1944.

The Naval Air Station closed in May 1944. In June 1944, Company B of the 91st Seabee Construction Battalion moved in to demolish the station, removed 5,000 tons of materials and equipment, and left in August 1944.

The remains of the steel rails and submerged wrecks of a number of Catalinas can still be seen today. Live ammunition is occasionally found by locals.

1957 Strike

All Islanders were required to work 30 hours each week, and up until the 1960s no wages were paid for this work. Seven families were banished from the Palm Island in 1957 for taking part in a strike organised to protest against the Dickensian working conditions imposed by the Queensland Government under the reserve system. Athlete Cathy Freeman's mother, Cecilia Barber, was amongst those banished from the island

In a 2007 commemorative ceremony the Queensland Government apologised to the surviving wives of two of the strikers for the actions of the Government in the 1950s.cite news
url= http://ibnnews.org/national/palm_island_commemorating_1957_strike_16607_777778450124577_00000.html | title =Palm Island commemorating 1957 strike | publisher =IBN News |date=16 June 2007 | accessdate = 2007-06-21
]

Wilson's criminological analysis

In 1985 then Associate Professor of Sociology Paul Wilson published a criminological analysis of criminal statistics averaged over the period of January 1977 to May 1984. Wilson, Paul (1985) pages 51-52]

Palm Island falls in the federal Division of Herbert and the Electoral district of Townsville.cite web |url=http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch/electorate.cfm?Electorates__Electorate=HERBERT%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20 | title = Electorate:Herbert | work = Australian Electoral Commission Info Centre |date=20 January 2006|accessdate = 2007-01-24] cite web | url = http://www.ecq.qld.gov.au/profiles/Townsville/Map.pdf | title=State Electoral District of Townsville |format=pdf|year=2005|accessdate=2007-01-24] Peter Lindsay (Liberal Party of Australia) is the Federal Member and Mike Reynolds (Australian Labor Party) is the State Member.

Peter Lindsay has claimed that Palm Island is a hopelessly dysfunctional community and that either the Island economy/landholdings should be mainstreamed or the Indigenous population should be relocated to the mainland. The Palm Island Council and Mike Reynolds reacted with outrage calling the idea racist and lacking cultural competency, the Queensland Government has ruled out forced relocation. [cite news|last= Grant|first=Karla|title=MOVING PALM|url=http://news.sbs.com.au/livingblack/index.php?action=proginfo&id=311 |publisher= Living Black (SBS TV, Australia)|date=17 December 2006|accessdate=2007-01-31]

Economy

There is no freehold land title on Palm Island, with property owned by either the Local or State Government. More than 90% of the adult population is unemployed. There is no industry on the island despite rich natural resources such as crayfish worth $150 each and enormous tourism potential.

Carpentaria Land Council chief executive Brad Foster in 2004 summarised their economic standing thus; "This island has 4000 residents, and the services applicable to a community with 500 people. That has to change and businesses have to be able to invest here, make profits, employ and train locals — get part of the real world."

Cost of living is relatively very high on Palm Island due to the remoteness of island living and the general lack of private enterprise. At the island store bread costs approximately $4.20 a loaf, about twice the average in Australia. Goods in general, particularly essential food items, cost considerably more than similar products in mainstream Queensland, sometimes two to three times higher. The cost of living issue is exacerbated by economic loss to alcohol, drug dependence and gambling, and the fact that crops and livestock are not cultivated locally on the island. Dillon, Colin (April 2000) "chapter 3.12 REVIEW FINDINGS - Cost of Living" pages 66-68]

Around the island there are failed or abandoned ventures, the relics of which are still there; a piggery, chicken farm, disused stockyards, market garden and a joinery works.

A presently abandoned oyster farm is an example of one of the failed ventures on Palm Island. The natural environment of Palm Island and adjacent Halifax Bay is ideal for the aquaculture of oysters, shrimp, prawns and mackerel. Over a five year period in the 1970s Applied Ecology Pty Ltd (an organisation designed to assist Aboriginal communities to develop sustainable industries, funded by the Government) established an oyster lease on Palm Island. At one point the lease had $600,000 worth of oysters. Unfortunately due to alleged poor management and lack of interest among the community the oyster lease fell into disrepair. [cite news|last=Hirst|first=George|title= From the archives: Keith Bryson - The man behind the White Lady (Part 2)|url=http://www.magnetictimes.com/index.php?ID=2273|publisher=Magnetic Times|year=2001|accessdate=2007-02-23] The farm is purported to have cost $20 million.

Research by the Centre for Tropical Urban and Regional Planning at James Cook University has concluded that Palm Island has most of the resources it needs to be largely self-sufficient through housing, agriculture and tourism. However Barry Moyle the Chief Executive Officer of the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and former Mayor of Johnstone Shire Council suggests that the tourism potential of the island is hindered by the negative reputation that Palm Island is considered to have. Moyle asserts that once potential tourists get past that negative image "they will find really nice and beautiful people, with a rich culture, living on this untouched tropical gem of North Queensland". Further, according to Moyle, "it could be considered a big ask that people will get past the perception that the people are all no-hoper alcoholics and perpetrators of domestic violence, which is considered to be the general reputation that Palm Islanders have in broader Australia. Locals say that there are bad eggs, but that is the same in all communities."

Land title

Native Title claims do not apply to most residents as they are not the original inhabitants of the land, the general community (Bwgcolman people) do have a strong historical connection to the land, most having been born there. Having "historical" (as opposed to "traditional") rights recognised is a legally grey area. Free hold title does not apply either; most land is controlled by the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council. The land is held by the Council for the benefit of the community in trust, through a "Deed of Grant in Trust" (DOGIT). This in practice means that, for example, a third party would not be able to lease and develop land on Palm Island without the permission of the community and even then leases are limited to 30 years.

A basic three bedroom house costs approximately $350,000 to $400,000 to build on Palm Island (not including sewerage, power, phone and water, and the cost of the land). Federal Minister Mal Brough has stated that building prices on Palm (or in indigenous communities in general) are over inflated and that it could be done for half the cost. All homes are on crown land and are owned by the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and are rented at a Government-subsidised rate of $44 to $60 a week to residents. There are 320 rental houses under this arrangement.

Most businesses are owned by the Council and land title restrictions hinder private investment; approval to build a house or start a business can take up to three years.

Opposition.

However other Islanders are suspicious of these moves as an opportunity for the more powerful families to gain more power through land ownership or even worse a way of taking land off the Palm Islanders, who in desperation may sell to the highest bidding developer even if that bid significantly undervalues the land in question. Professor Mick Dodson, director of the Centre for Indigenous Studies at the ANU, argues that the people on Palm Island do not have the financial capacity to compete in the housing market on a commercial basis: He asserts that the only solution to the problem of overcrowding lies in increasing the level of public housing, there are not the jobs to build capacity among locals to become home owners.

There is an alternative option under the push for privatising landholdings which addresses fears of the land being lost from the community: a closed market system where caveats restricting ownership to members of the community are placed on 99-year leases. This would mean that land could be bought and sold but only between Palm Islanders. It is unclear whether this arrangement would allow for mortgages as the banks who give the loans are outside the community and would require security for their loan that they can legally collect.

Traditional ownership of the Manbarra people complicates debate about Palm Island land title. There is no registered Native Title claim and only seven traditional owners still live on the island, however there could be a valid claim. Professor Dodson argues that the historical international experience is that once communal title is extinguished then the indigenous people lose the land permanently. Minister Brough argues that 100-year leases will not extinguish Native Title over the land.

The Queensland Government, which has constitutional responsibility for land tenure holds the position that this issue is extremely complex and that it will not be bullied by the Commonwealth. The former state Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Warren Pitt, in 2007 said that all parties have matured since Native Title was introduced and can recognise that while the issues are complex, the betterment of Aboriginal people can be realised.

Law and order

Palm Island has an extreme level of theft, domestic violence, sexual assaults against children and abject drunkenness. This behaviour is attributed locally to boredom, aimlessness, lack of education, absence of role models and a complete loss of self-worth. Another important factor is bitter family divisions which rule the social fabric of the island and a complex web of historical disputes between those families, some going back decades. Criminologist Dr Paul Wilson found Palm Island to have one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. He suggested that the problems could be tied to repression of the past and colonial practices.cite news | publisher = BBC News| author = Mercer, Phil | title = Aborigines' dark island home |url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4066203.stm |date=4 December 2004|accessdate=2007-01-24] In the December 2004 to December 2005 period there were 76 admissions to the hospital for assault involving residents, 26 times the standard Queensland rate.

These figures do not necessarily reflect the war like violence that is commonly associated with Palm Island. St Michael's Catholic School Principal, Lil Mirtl, has stated that people visiting or living on the Island just need to take sensible precautions such as not walking alone at night, similar to precautions that people should exercise in most places.

The most successful program implemented to reduce the high levels of crime is the Palm Island Community Justice Group. The Justice Group has existed since 1992, it is a committee of elders on the island who, it is said, have far more influence over young offenders on the island than the police or courts.cite news|last=Meade|first=Kevin|title=Indigenous youth in good hands when it comes to discipline|publisher=The Australian|date=10 November 1998|page=4] The Justice group has a statutory role within the judicial system in administering justice on the island. [cite news|last=Royal|first=Simon|title=Sexual abuse, alcoholism, drugs: life on Palm Island|url= http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2002/s453800.htm |program= The 7.30 Report|callsign= ABC|date=7 January 2002 ] The group is funded by the Queensland Government to administer the program, created in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, with the aim of keeping indigenous children on Palm out of the criminal justice system. Under the program the Palm Island community is encouraged to devise their own systems for dealing with offenders. In the three years after the Community Justice Group was established, Palm Island juveniles appearing before magistrates courts fell by a third. Police and the courts often refer offenders to the Community Justice Group.

"These older ones have the wisdom and knowledge, and they can sit around the table and talk, and bring feuding parties together. .. When they come before us they can't bluff us, because it's black on black." Peena Geia, Chairwoman of the Community Justice Group, 2001 [cite news|last=Laurie|first=Victoria|title=Payback - Justice in black & white|publisher=The Australian|date=20 October 2001|page=1]

In December 2001 the Community Justice Group assisted a five day investigation by a team of Queensland police and Department of Families officers. The investigation discretely collected information from Islanders about suspected child sexual abuse in the community,cite news|last=McGregor|first=Adrian|title=Palm Islanders fear child-sex ring|publisher=The Australian|date=19 December 2001|page=4] resulting in a number of arrests. [cite news|title=Child sex charges|publisher=The Australian|date=21 December 2001|page=5] The investigation was accompanied by a serious of allegations suggesting that almost 100% of girls between 13 and 16 years old had contracted sexually transmitted diseases. It was also alleged that girls as young as 12 had been trading sex for cigarettes and alcohol and that children as young as five were being molested.

There are various other local programs which have assisted with lowering the crime rate of Palm Island: The Men's Group is coordinated by former Mayor Robert Blackley, it runs a prison cell visitors program, a support service, and a children's night patrol. In 2000, the Palm Island Council used a $40,000 State Government grant to establish a community-run re-orientation program for youths to help reduce youth crime and suicide, by relocating wayward youths to a new youth and cultural camp where they would be taught their culture, language and art on neighbouring Fantome Island, a former leprosarium. [cite news|last=Robbins|first=Matt|title=Island for wayward juveniles|publisher=The Australian|date=4 January 2000|page=4] The Coolgaree nippers club is the first indigenous club in Surf Lifesaving Queensland; Coolgaree is affiliated to Arcadian surf lifesaving club in the first year of the nippers club operating (1999) juvenile crime rates on Palm Island dropped from 186 offences to 99. [cite news|last=Pryor|first=Cathy|title=Island's nippers help turn tide against crime|publisher=The Australian|date=27 September 2001|page=3]

Tony Fitzgerald QC investigated alcohol abuse in indigenous communities and was shocked by the extent of the State-wide problem.cite news|last=Bevan|first=Scott|title=Fitzgerald report stirs political debate|url= http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2002/s510506.htm|program= The 7.30 Report|callsign= ABC|date=21 March 2002 ] He recommended to the Queensland Government that unless things improved dramatically within a period of three years than alcohol should be banned in consultation with the communities. Like other community councils (in 2001) the Palm Island Community Council relied on revenue generated by alcohol sales at the Hotel, the investigation report recommended this perceived conflict of interest end.Fact|date=April 2007

The Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy commissioned a further report in 2005 and, as a result of its recommendations, the islands in the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council became the 19th Queensland community [cite news|last=Roberts|first=Greg|title=Beattie defends police methods|publisher=The Australian|date=30 November 2004|page=6] to become a restricted area for possession of alcohol from 19 June 2006. These restrictions include a limit of one carton of beer disembarking from the ferry service. [cite web|url=http://www.mcmc.qld.gov.au/community/search/palm_island.php#community|title=Palm Island - Alcohol management|author=Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy (Queensland)|year=2005|accessdate=2007-01-23] The alternative source of alcohol is the Palm Island Hotel / canteen, for either on site consumption or on a retail basis. Alcohol sales from the canteen are again restricted to one carton per person, or per vehicle.cite web
url = http://www.liquor.qld.gov.au/Indigenous/Alcohol+Management+Plans/Palm+Island
title = Palm Island
publisher = Queensland Government Liquor Licensing Division
accessdate = 2007-02-26
]

Demographics

At the 2006 census Palm Island had 1,984 residents, 93.4% of whom are of indigenous origin. However, there are various conflicting estimates of the population size; 3,000-3,500 residents is a figure which has been regularly quoted by local, state and federal politicians.cite news|title=Palm not the largest community|publisher=Townsville Bulletin|date=16 August 2006|page=5] There is controversy over the common practice of referring to Palm Island as the largest Indigenous community in Australia, with census figures from 2001 and 2006 showing the Yarrabah community as slightly larger.* Census 2006 AUS|id=350107600|name=Yarrabah (S) (Statistical Local Area)|quick=on|accessdate=2007-06-27]

The indigenous population generally identify with either the Bwgcolman (historical connection with Palm Island) or Manbarra (traditional connection) people. Compared with other parts of Australia, the Palm Island community is young with 35.6% under 15 and only 6.4% over 55. Only 5.1% of the population describe themselves as being non-religious compared with 18.7% of Australians, 42.6% are Catholic (25.8% Australia wide), 23.2% Anglican and 11.2% being other Protestant.

The community, consisting of approximately 42 mainland and Torres Strait Islander clan or family groups, suffers from chronic alcohol, drug and domestic abuse, has an unemployment rate of 90% and an average life expectancy of 50 years, thirty less than the Australian average.cite interview |last= Beattie|first= Peter |subjectlink= Peter Beattie |interviewer= Chris O'Brien |url= http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/qld/content/2006/s1752412.htm |program= "Stateline" (Queensland edition)|callsign= ABC|city= Brisbane, Queensland|date= 29 September 2006 ] cite web | last = Hughes | first = Helen | authorlink = Helen Hughes |date=8 January 2007 | url = http://www.cis.org.au/exechigh/Eh2007/EH20007.htm | title = Palmed off and abused | work = CIS Media Releases | publisher = The Centre for Independent Studies | accessdate = 2007-01-23]

The 2006 census was conducted on the 8th of August; unlike mainstream Australia, Palm Island figures were not be based on forms filled out by each household on census evening. Instead Palm Island was singled out for the population to be verbally interviewed individually over a ten day period due to past controversy about the accuracy of census details for Palm Island. Between ten and fifteen Indigenous census interviewers took the households' details from one adult from each house, interviews took between an hour and an hour and a half each and were conducted during business hours.cite news|last=Andersen|first=John|title=Island census `will spot overcrowding'|publisher=Townsville Bulletin|date=16 August 2006|page=5] [cite press release
title = Census has not forgotten Palm Island
publisher = Australian Bureau of Statistics
date=9 August 2006
url = http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/latestproducts/2903.0.55.002media%20release232006?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=2903.0.55.002&issue=2006&num=&view=
accessdate = 2007-05-09
]

Culture and sport

Many residents consider that the introduction of Western culture and the subsequent Mission policies of prohibiting the expression of traditional cultural has seriously eroded the cultural base of Palm Island. Many of the contemporary issues of substance abuse, law and order problems and the high suicide rate have been attributed in part to this absence of culture. [Dillon, Colin (April 2000) "chapter 2.4 ISSUES RAISED - Cultural Issues" page 13]

Amongst sporting activities on Palm Island boxing features prominently (both men's and women's) in 2006 11 young Palm Islanders represented Queensland at national boxing championships for the first time.cite news
last = Gerard
first = Ian
date=21 November 2006
url = http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/news/2006/palm/aust21nov06.html
title = New generation brings self-esteem to Palm Island
publisher = The Australian
accessdate = 2007-01-24
] The Barracudas are the local rugby league team, with Vern Daisy as a notable ex-player. In June 2005 the inaugural 3 on 3 Basketball competition was held, attracting over 300 locals.cite news
last = Cassidy
first = Andy
date = spring edition 2005
url = http://www.pcyc.org.au/news/BSC/BSC-SPRING05.pdf
title = PCYC — Driving positive change on Palm Island
publisher = PCYC Queensland - business supporters club news (newsletter)
accessdate = 2007-04-07
format=PDF
]

Many of the sporting activities are actively supported by or managed through the Queensland Police Citizens Youth Welfare Association facility; the Palm Island Community and Youth Centre (PICYC). The Centre was opened by the then Premier Peter Beattie in February 2005 over strong community objections due to animosity towards the Queensland Police following the November 2004 death in custody and the Police response to the subsequent riot. [cite news|last=Gerard|first=Ian|coauthor=MATP|title=Islanders picket Beattie ceremony|publisher=The Australian|date=18 February 2005|page=6] Having moved on from a dispute between the State Government and the Palm Island Council over who should run the facility, [cite web |url=http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2005/s1304792.htm |title=Peter Beattie opens youth centre in Palm Island |accessdate=2007-03-03 |format=HTML |work=Australian Broadcasting Corporation] the situation has become very positive and cooperative, the Centre is used for its intended purpose of youth and community engagement through sport and education. Adults and youth use the facility heavily, including a gym for boxing training, facilities for; women's aerobics, ballroom dancing, Indoor Volleyball, 5 on 5 Indoor Soccer, Old-time Dancing, and a mix of conventional and traditional games.cite news| last = Leha
first = Tim
date=23 August 2006
url = http://news.sbs.com.au/livingblack/index.php?action=proginfo&id=367
title = Palm Island PCYC
publisher = Living Black (SBS TV, Australia)
accessdate = 2007-04-06
] cite web|url = http://www.pcyc.org.au/branch/palisl.htm|title = Palm Island PCYC webpage|accessdate = 2007-04-07]

The PICYC, home to the Palm Island Police Citizens Youth Club, is considered to be a great success story, especially considering its controversial beginnings soon after the 2004 death in custody and riot. The Centre is mostly staffed by community members who teach the younger generation both traditional and life skills such as weaving and cooking in a safe and comfortable environment. The Centre has an atmosphere of respect and traditional culture which tries to build children's confidence and self-esteem. Additionally to the sporting activities, the Centre hosts community growth projects, services and facilities such as a radio service ("Bwgcolman Radio"), an Internet Café, TAFE cooking classes, after-school and vacation care, monthly discos, drumming groups ($8,000 worth of drums donated by the Queensland Police), Family Movie Nights, and Bingo. [cite news |first=Neil |last=Doorley |title=The Palm Island PCYC is running a music program to encourage interaction between police and local indigenous youth |format= TV Broadcast|publisher= National Nine News (Brisbane)|date=18 May 2007] The PICYC employs a paid staff of nine locals and one volunteer.

Infrastructure

Palm Island has no urban planning to speak of (most of the town has not been surveyed), although they officially have names there are no street signs or even traffic signs which are standard on most other Queensland roads.

Facilities operated by the State Government on the island include a hospital, a Prep to Grade 10 school, the Palm Island Community and Youth Centre (PICYC), a sewage treatment plant, a local supermarket store and (new) police station and courthouse.cite news |url=http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Tropic-of-despair/2004/12/03/1101923341699.html|title= Tropic of despair |publisher=Sydney Morning Herald|date=4 December 2004 | date= 4 December 2004|first = Mark|last = Todd|accessdate=2007-02-04]

The Palm Island Council operates the Palm Island Hotel (also known as the Coolgaree Bay Hotel and previously known as the canteen), the community's only outlet with a liquor license. The Council owns various other local services and businesses such as the garage and the Commonwealth Bank agency.

Private retail enterprise on the Island is limited to a butcher, a fish-and-chip shop, a clothes shop, the Post Office and a BP service station that sells petrol at about $.50 a litre more than Townsville. Non-Government services which are standard for population bases of this size in Australia are absent on Palm Island include a baker, hairdresser and newsagent.

In 2004 the army completed $10 million worth of work constructing a permanent water-supply dam on the island and upgrading a number of roads.. Other transport infrastructure includes Palm Island Airport on the South-West of the Island from which Skytrans flies to and from Townsville up to four times each day. Palm Island's pier is in Challenger Bay, a ferry-boat service operated by Sunferries makes a return trip from Townsville three times a week. A barge service operates weekly from Lucinda bringing food, machinery and fuel to the island.

Transport on Palm Island is primarily walking with few private cars on the island, in 2005 the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), with Queensland Transport, purchased a 23 seat community bus which runs a school bus service and transport to PCYC events.

Education

Education infrastructure is comparatively high on Palm Island for a remote low population base. There is State and private primary education locally and secondary education offered up to year ten on the Island with provisions for students to complete their year 12 senior certificate on Palm through the State education and TAFE systems or to board on the main land at private schools.

However educational outcomes are adversely affected by problems faced in home life, particularly; being exposed to serious alcohol and other substance abuse, family violence, exposure to suicides and attempted suicides, balancing cultural and educational demands, living with poverty, child abuse and overcrowded housing. These problems can result in high rates of absenteeism, low self-esteem and little concentration on education. Alternatively school can be a haven from these external problems; there are many dedicated educators and concerned parents interested in contributing to an effective, viable and culturally appropriate education system on Palm. [Dillon, Colin (April 2000) "chapter 3.10 Review findings - Education/Youth" pages 60-65]

The island has two schools; St Michael's Catholic School (Prep to grade 7) and the Education Queensland Bwgcolman Community School (Prep to Grade 10). The Bwgcolman Community School includes the Bwgcolman Community Library which is jointly managed and funded by the Council and State Government. [cite web|url = http://publib.slq.qld.gov.au/directory/palmisla.htm|title = Palm Island Community Council library services|accessdate = 2007-02-02]

The Bwgcolman Community School has 350 students with 50 Indigenous and 27 non-Indigenous staff. [cite news|last=Koch|first=Tony|title=Island kids get to the art of the matter|publisher=The Australian|date=1 December 2004|page=1] Palm Island, like most Aboriginal communities, has difficulties with school attendance, the Principal of St. Michael's has stated that absenteeism averages about 30% among their 160 students. A 2005 test at Bwgcolman school (leaked to the media) showed that the primary school students score "significantly less" than Queensland average in literacy and numeracy. St Michael's have a program of teaching students "dainty" (Australian English) as a third language in addition to the communally spoken "Island English" and the particular language group that the child belongs to.

Health

Palm Island is serviced by the Joyce Palmer Health Service based at the Palm Island Hospital, completed in 2000, which has an emergency department and a 15-bed general ward. The service is named for Joyce Palmer, a health worker who commenced her work in the 1940s at the Island's old grass hospital, and provided health care to the people of Palm Island for over 40 years.

The hospital provides a primary level of acute care services and provides secondary services such as community health, X-ray, pharmacy, dental, child health, sexual health, and antenatal and specialist clinics. There are two doctors based on Palm Island. Critical patients are stabilised and transferred to Townsville Hospital by Royal Flying Doctors Service or the Air Sea Rescue. [cite web |url=http://www.health.qld.gov.au/townsville/Facilities/joyce_palmer.asp| title =Joyce Palmer Health Service|accessdate = 2007-02-01] There is a community mental health team based at the Palm Island Hospital with nurses and indigenous health workers. A consultant psychiatrist visits for one day every 6 weeks. [cite web |url=http://www.health.qld.gov.au/townsville/IMHS/Indigenous/palm.asp| title =Palm Island Mental Health Service|accessdate = 2007-05-07]

The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) began operations on Palm Island in 2000 and took over from the hospital based service. Presently staffed by two paramedics and two ambulance attendants, they average approx 2000 cases per year. The QAS is involved in teaching First Aid to the community, "Adopt an Ambo" programs with both schools, motivational camps for teenagers and works closely with allied health services on the island. The QAS has also started a stinger prevention program with stinger stations having been established in different locations around the island. Funding has been raised to provide stinger suits to the communities children through the two schools and PCYCFact|date=October 2007

Despite the healthcare facilities, a report tabled in the Queensland Parliament on 21 April 2006 claimed that conditions at Palm Island resembled those of a third world country. [cite hansard | url= http://parlinfo.parliament.qld.gov.au/isysnative/XFxXRUJTRVJWRVJcSEFOX0lTWVM2REJcMjAwNi5wZGZcMjAwNl8wNF8yMV9XRUVLTFkucGRm/2006_04_21_WEEKLY.pdf| house= Queensland Legislative Assembly|date=21 April 2006| page=1338 |format=PDF] cite book | last=McDougall | first=Scott | month=January | year=2006 | title=| place=| publisher=| pages=page 74 ]

In 1979 an outbreak of hepatoenteritis, also known as the "Palm Island mystery disease", was reported and described a hepatitis-like illness (associated with dehydration and bloody diarrhoea) in 138 children and 10 adults of Indigenous descent. [cite web
title =Severe hepatotoxicity caused by the tropical cyanobacterium (blue-green alga) Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii (Woloszynska) Seenaya and Subba Raju isolated from a domestic water supply reservoir
publisher =Applied and Environmental Microbiology
date=November 1985, 50(5): 1292–1295.
url =http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=238741
accessdate = 2007-03-03
] [Bourke ATC, Hawes RB, Nielson A, Stallman ND. "An outbreak of hepatoenteritis (the Palm Island mystery disease) possibly caused by algal intoxication [abstract] . Toxicon Suppl 1983;45-48.'] This was proposed to have been caused by the toxin cylindrospermopsin, which was released from lysed cyanobacterial cells after the addition of excessive doses of copper sulfate to the water supply of Solomon Dam to target a bloom of Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii. A later report alternatively proposed that the excess copper in the water was the cause of the disease. The excessive dosing was following the use of least-cost contractors to control the algae, who were unqualified in the field.cite journal|last=Prociv|first=Paul|url=http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/181_06_200904/letters_200904_fm-6.html|year=2004|journal=Medical Journal of Australia|volume=181|issue=6|pages=344|title=(Letters) Algal toxins or copper poisoning — revisiting the Palm Island 'epidemic'"|accessdate=2007-01-23]

References

*cite book |last= Bindloss|first= Joseph |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Queensland|year= 2002|publisher= Lonely Planet |location= |isbn= 0864427123"
*cite book |last= Dillon|first= Colin|authorlink= |coauthors= |title= FINAL REPORT - REVIEW OF THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES OF DOOMADGEE AND PALM ISLAND|month=April | year=2000|publisher= Phillip, A.C.T. : ATSIC. Review commissioned by the then Australian Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Senator John Herron March 1998|location= |isbn=
*cite book | last=McDougall | first=Scott | year=2005 | title=Palm Island: Future Directions - Resource Officer Report | place=Brisbane, Queensland | publisher=(the former) Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy | month=January | year=2006| url=http://www.datsip.qld.gov.au/resources/publications/documents/future-directions-palm-island-resource-officer-report.pdf
*cite book |last= [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/PISC Palm Island Select Committee] |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Report - August 2005|url= http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/PISC/view/committees/documents/PISC/reports/report.pdf|month= August | year= 2005|publisher= [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/legislativeAssembly/tableOffice/documents/historical/tabledPapers/TABLEDPAPERS-0511st.pdf Tabled] in the Queensland Legislative Assembly 25 August 2005 |location= |isbn= |format=PDF
*cite book |last= Queensland Government|first= |authorlink= Queensland Government|coauthors= |title= [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/PISC/view/committees/documents/PISC/response%20to%20PISC.PDF Queensland Government Response] to the [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/PISC Palm Island Select Committee] |month= November | year= 2005|publisher= [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/legislativeAssembly/tableOffice/documents/historical/tabledPapers/TABLEDPAPERS-0511st.pdf Tabled] in the Queensland Legislative Assembly 10 November 2005|location= |isbn=
*cite book |last= Queensland Government|first= |authorlink= Queensland Government|coauthors= |title= Queensland Government Progress Report on implementation of the Government Response to the Palm Island Select Committee|month= November | year= 2006|publisher= [http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/legislativeassembly/tableOffice/documents/HALnks/061128/MinStats.pdf Tabled] in the Queensland Legislative Assembly 28 November 2006|location= |isbn=
*cite book |last= Wilson|first= Paul|authorlink= |coauthors= |title= BLACK DEATH WHITE HANDS REVISITED: THE CASE OF PALM ISLAND|year= 1985|publisher= Aust. & NZ Journal of Criminology (March 1985) 18 (pages 49-57)|location= |isbn=
Footnotes

External links

* [http://www.bwgcolmacoms.eq.edu.au/ Bwgcolmacom Community School website]
* [http://www.accq.org.au/comm/palm.htm Local Council information]
* [http://www.pcyc.org.au/branch/palisl.htm Palm Island PCYC webpage]
* [http://www.atns.net.au/biogs/A002600b.htm Database of Agreements to which the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council are parties]
* [http://www.health.qld.gov.au/townsville/Facilities/joyce_palmer.asp Joyce Palmer Health Service webpage]
* [http://home.st.net.au/~dunn/airfields/palmislandnavalairstation.htm Dunn, Peter "WW2 Palm Island naval base" Australia @ War, 22 May 2004 (and updated since)]
* [http://www.mcmc.qld.gov.au/community/search/palm_island.php Queensland Government information webpage on Palm Island and alcohol management]
* [http://www.communityrenewal.qld.gov.au/communities/operate/palm_island.shtm Queensland Government information webpage on Community Renewal on Palm Island]
* [http://www.mcmc.qld.gov.au/community/documents/palm-island-map.pdf Queensland Government map of alcohol restriction zone]
* [http://www.indigenous.gov.au/sra/qld/fact_sheets/qldnov0506.html Australian Government Shared Responsibility Agreement - Palm Island our horses, our responsibility]

Articles produced by The Brisbane Institute think tank

*Professor Steffen Lehmann, "Lessons from Palm Island", The Brisbane Institute, 17 November 2005
*Boe, Andrew, "Palm Island: something is very wrong", The Brisbane Institute, 21 April 2005
*Boe, Andrew, "Palm Island Inquest findings – the unacceptable political inertia", The Brisbane Institute, 06 October 2006


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