Palm Island, Queensland
Palm Island, North Queensland
|Population||2,455 (2016 census)(Great Palm)|
|Time zone||UTC+10 (UTC)|
Palm Island is a locality consisting of an island group of 16 islands, split between the Shire of Hinchinbrook and the Aboriginal Shire of Palm Island, in Queensland, Australia. The locality consists of the Palm Island group, also known as the Greater Palm group, which was originally named the Palm Isles.
Great Palm Island is the largest island in the group, and is most often referred to as just "Palm Island". An Aboriginal community is located on this island, which is also called by the Aboriginal name "Bwgcolman". The term "Palm Island" is sometimes used to refer to the island group, sometimes the Aboriginal Shire, and sometimes Great Palm Island, but as most of the other islands are uninhabited, the majority of sources are actually referring to Great Palm only, sometimes along with governance issues relating to the Shire Council.
There are 16 islands in the group. Only Great Palm has a significant population of permanent residents; the rest, apart from Orpheus Island, which has a tourist resort and research facility, are uninhabited.
Geography and governance
There are 16 islands that make up the Greater Palm group; of the 12 named islands, the two most northerly ones (Pelorus and Orpheus) are in the Shire of Hinchinbrook, and the other ten are in the Aboriginal Shire of Palm Island.
- Pelorus Island (North Palm Island, Yanooa, Guyroogarrie) – uninhabited and privately owned
- Orpheus Island (Goolboddi – contains national park, research facility and tourist resort, privately owned)
- Curacoa Island (Noogoo)
- Fantome Island (Eumilli)
- Great Palm Island (Bwgcolman)
- Esk Island (Soopun)
- Falcon Island (Carbooroo)
- Eclipse Island (Garoogubbee)
- Brisk Island (Culgarul)
- Barber Island (Boodthean)
- Fly Island
- Havannah Island
The group was originally named the "Palm Isles". The majority of the islands are micro-islands; the most notable are Great Palm Island (the largest and most populated), Fantome Island, and Orpheus Island. Neighbouring islands outside the Palm group include Rattlesnake Island, which is used for Air Force bombing practice, and Magnetic Island, an island suburb of Townsville. The nearest island to the group is Pandora Reef.
In Table 1 are the ten islands of the group in the jurisdiction of the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council. The remaining rocks owned by the Commonwealth are in the jurisdiction of the GBRMPA. Table 2 lists additional micro-islands.
|Island name||Aboriginal name||Group size||Brushfire risk||GBRMPA reef designation|
|Curra-cao or Curacoa Island||Noogoo or Inoogoo||major||medium||18-052|
|Great Palm Island or Palm Island||Bwgcolman||major||high||18-054|
|Brisk Island||Culgarool||micro-island||medium||shared with Falcon Island|
|Eclipse Island||Garoogubbee||micro-island||not rated||18-058|
|Esk Island||Soopun||micro-island||not rated||18-059|
|Barber Island||Boodthean||micro-island||not rated||18-061|
|Falcon Island||Carbooroo||micro-island||not rated||18-062|
|Fly Island||micro-island||not rated||18-064|
|Island name||GBRMPA reef designation|
|Albino Rock (AKA White Rock)||18-057|
The islands in the area were named the "Palm Isles" by explorer James Cook in 1770 as he sailed up the eastern coast of Australia on his first voyage. It is estimated that the population of the island at the time of Cook's visit was about 200 Manbarra people. Cook sent some of his men to Palm Island and "they returned on board having met with nothing worth observing".
(Great) Palm Island history
Great Palm Island has always been the most populated island. It is estimated that the population of the island at the time of Cook's 1770 visit was about 200 people. From the 1850s, locals were enticed away to join bêche-de-mer and pearling enterprises with Europeans and Japanese, and By the end of the 19th century the population had been reduced to about 50.
In 1914, the Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement was created by the Queensland Government, and relocated people from 1918 all over Queensland, starting with Hull River Mission residents after the mission was destroyed by a cyclone. People from up to 57 language groups were moved there. In the first two decades of its existence, the number of residents rose from 200 to 1,630. It was regarded as a penal settlement, with people being sent there for perceived wrongdoing, and soon it became the largest government Aboriginal reserve in Queensland.
The women’s dormitory closed in 1967 and was demolished in 1969. The children’s dormitories were officially closed on 5 December 1975.
1999: Compensation by Queensland Government for underpaid wages
In 1999 the Queensland Government apologised and gave A$7,000 compensation each to former Palm Islander employees in recompense for underpaid wages between 1975 and 1986. The payment was ordered by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in a case first brought to the Commission by seven Palm Islanders in 1986.
2004: Death in custody and consequences
On 19 November 2004, Palm Island resident Mulrunji (known as Cameron Doomadgee while alive), aged 36 or 37, died in a police cell on Palm Island, one hour after being picked up for allegedly causing a public nuisance. After the post-mortem report said that the cause of death was severe internal injuries, riots occurred, and as a result, a number of people were charged with offences.
Two coronial inquests were held, a police officer was tried for manslaughter, but acquitted on 20 June 2007. The Crime and Misconduct Commission examined police relations in Queensland and as part of this, conducted an inquiry into police handling of the Mulrunji investigation. In 2010 it reported that more work was needed on police relations, while noting that some improvement had occurred, recommending 51 specific actions.
The police raids and behaviour following the riot were found in December 2016 to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, with a record class action settlement of A$30 million awarded to victims in May 2018. The raids were found by the court to be "racist" and "unnecessary, disproportionate" with police having "acted in these ways because they were dealing with an Aboriginal community".
Fantome Island medical facilities (1926–1973)
In 1926 a lock hospital was built on Fantome Island; Aboriginal people were sent there mainly for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. In 1937 Fantome Island became a medical clearing station, where Aboriginal people sent to Palm Island were examined and treated if necessary. A leprosarium was established on Fantome in 1939.
The hospital was closed in 1945, and the leprosarium in 1973, when the inhabitants were moved to (Great) Palm Island.
2004: Legal action relating to pearl farming
Zen Pearls Pty Ltd and Indian Pacific Pearls Pty Ltd (both controlled by Michael Crimp) established pearl farms in 1998 with the permission of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (which controls the sea waters around the islands), despite the opposition of, at least some, of the people of Palm Island. On 24 September 1998 the Manbarra elders passed a resolution opposing the farms on the basis of;
"the historical and cultural significance of the Juno Bay site for both the Manbarra and Bwgcolman Peoples, the sense of trespass on traditional ownership rights, concerns that the cultural connection to the area would slip away and a strong feeling that the provision of a small number of employment opportunities offered by the pearling operations would not adequately compensate the damage to cultural values."
Subsequently, the Park Authority refused to extend the pearl farming permits and Crimp took action before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to have this decision reversed. On 15 March 2004 the Tribunal agreed that the permits should be terminated but allowed the existing pearling operations to continue to 1 December 2005. This decision was substantially upheld by the Federal Court on 21 October 2004.
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