Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

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.

Yours sincerely,
Anja Light
Greens Senate Candidate

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Letter: Palmed off
 
11 comments
 
Food for thought
May 27th 2007
You're right Anja, I beleive the majority of residents of Palm Island are wonderful people with a real sense of self and pride in their culture. Unfortuneately it is the minority of bad apples that is prevelant in all societies that have contributed to the general publics perception and hence stereotyping of the Palm Island community. I myself have been abused and called some extremely racist and abhorent names whilst waiting for the ferry to Magnetic Island by people who are catching the ferry to Palm, in saying this though I have also had some engaging and thoroughly decent conversations with many more polite and interesting people that has left me with a great deal of respect for those that hold their heads above the problems plaguing their people. Good on you for stepping up and looking at both sides of the coin, since you're in politics maybe you could spend some more time with their local council and act as a mediator to the local Townsville Council/ State Government to help break down some of the barriers built over the last couple of years instead of people merely paying them lip service.
Well Done!
 
John Belchenny
May 27th 2007
"Is Palm Island such a painful topic that even the Townsville Tourism Information Centre doesn
 
chasmac
May 28th 2007
Since Townsville Enterprise is mainly funded from local and state government sources I would have thought Step 1 would be that Townsville Enterprise goes to Palm Island looking for that "operator" to invite them to participate in Townsville tourism. Maybe it has never occurred to them.
 
Kearney
May 28th 2007
I am going over to Palm Island with work this week and will discuss this letter with the CEO and Mayor and ask them to report back. Palm Island is now a Shire and therefore it is not necessary to obtain a permit. On the front desk of the Council Office a "Visitors Book" is used by most people. This is a great way for a socially isolated community to know who is wandering around and how long they are there for and whether or not they want to engage with them. There may have been some misinformation due to recent reports in national newspapers discussing permits systems used in the Northern Territory by Indigenous communities.
 
John Belchenny
May 28th 2007
Chasmac. They say the best ideas are simple ones. Yours is a simple but great idea. I reckon you're 100% right, its never occurred to TEL but I am sure TEL would love the extra $$$ from any operator in their region - I am assuming Palm is in Townsville not Cairns Tropical North Queensland. Any idea which Palm Island operator TEL should contact?
 
Keith
May 28th 2007
Unless you pay Townsville Enterprise around $550 they do not put any brochures or information about you in their 'minimal' Tourist Information Centres.
This is in addition to a base membership price of over $1000. Out of the price range of nearly all tour operators & accommadation houses in the region. Which is why Townsville Enterprises 'minimal' Torist Information Centres are unable to provide tourists with information about the area.
Also interesting to note that they are one of the only RTO's that charge to have brochures in their VIC's.
 
chasmac
May 29th 2007
I'm quite sure TEL knows how to get in touch with Palm Island. The question is - do they want to? Several Townsville based tourism operators (members of TEL) make use of Palm Island in one way or another and by the look of media reports, others are lining up.
Maybe the way through this is to leave the middle man out of it and make contact with Palm Island Council direct. The number is in the phone book.
 
Peter F. Hughes
May 29th 2007
Palm Island is so easy to visit. Raise the sails at Horseshoe Bay and you can be in Steamer Passage in 10 hours. Try chartering a yacht from Horseshoe Bay and head for Electra Head and an overnight anchorage in North East Bay, arguably the most beautiful bay in North Queensland.
Hire a tinny at Orpheus Island and island hop past Fantome and Curacoa Islands and Challenger Bay is there to greet you.
Tie up the tinny at the jetty and head to the biggest brick building and ask about a night in the Palm Island Motel.
There is no doubt in my mind, the Palm Island group is the most beautiful part of North Queensland because the greedy, white shoe developers havn't been able to touch it. Thats right.
Palm Island looks like Magnetic Island in the 70's. But then again, Indigenous Australians have always been the best custodians of their land, there is no argument about that.
Peter F. Hughes
Waurn Ponds,
Vic
 
Derek Dunn
June 3rd 2007
For a non-local, it is very difficult to find ANY information on how to get to Palm Island. Are the timetables available from the ferry terminal, assuming that's where they leave from? How long does it take to get there? Can the return trip from Townsville be done in a day or is an overnight stay required? Asking anyone in Townsville gets the same response: What do you want to go there for? I want to go to some of the islands off Townsvile to collect specimens for botanical research, but the attitude of many Australians to the people who live on them does not make it easy.
 
chasmac
June 3rd 2007
I understand that Sunferries Townsville terminal has a timetable for Palm Island services posted somewhere and according to a Sunferries newsletter (about Feb/March 2007) there are three services a week (Friday, Sunday, Wednesday) which presumably go out and back on the same day/evening. Curiously, the sunferries.com.au website does not mention Palm Island so I can understand Mr Dunn's frustration. Still, he could phone Palm Island Council (07 47701177 or 07 47700200) and get the lowdown direct. And if that doesn't work for him there's always Magnetic Island where the locals take no notice of the "attitude of many Australians" - especially those from TownsVILE (sic).
 
Edmund A.Gray
July 16th 2007
Well, I believe some of what you said is right. Better managment will bring the Aboriginies out of poverty. And, you have all commented on the economical side of the affairs but, have you considered is money the key to the conflicts on the island? I am going to visit the island on september, and i will judge what i saw, for now, I will say the key to the poverty is the matter of the heart. The Aboriginies have perfect reason to hate us. Don't you think we owe them an apology instead of trying to turn THEIR land into a holiday resort.


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