May 27th 2007
Letter: Palmed off
Dear Sir, Recently my family and I visited Palm Island.
It wasn't easy to get there. When I went to the Townsville Information Centre to ask when the boats went they said "Ah - no - you can't go to Palm Island'. When I said - 'well, I think you can' they said - 'well maybe, but you can't get off the boat without a permit, and we don't have the boat times here'. Well, you CAN get off the boat and you don't need a permit and there is accommodation available that can be arranged through the Palm Island Council.
Is Palm Island such a painful topic that even the Townsville Tourism Information Centre doesn't keep any information about the place? What is going on?
I have white skin. I was not bashed, spit on, mobbed, robbed or abused. People were friendly to us. I felt quite safe walking with my children through the community and along the beach.
Yes, it felt like I was in a third world country with the obvious signs of poverty and disempowerment - but the beauty of this tropical paradise was more powerful to me than its problems. And there are solutions to the problems - like most things, some genuine political goodwill and honest leadership would help immensely.
Things may improve when the people of Palm Island are supported in determining their own futures. They deserve a real say in their own education, health, housing, income-generating enterprises like tourism and their own food production (right now almost all food comes from the mainland).
A close-minded, judgemental approach will only feed more isolation, resentment and violence. Can we move on and find within ourselves a better, more positive attitude towards the Palm Island community? An approach based on respect, not pity; of understanding, not judgement - has to be the way to go.
Greens Senate Candidate
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