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Edition 8

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Essay

Who let the dogs out?

WILLY IS A young Palm Island boy, full of life and with more than a fair serve of natural chutzpah. His grandmother, Aunty M, whose house I'm camped in, tells me he's good at maths as well as footy. Willy wants to play for the Cowboys when he grows up, and for most of my stay on his island is glued to the PlayStation, selecting teams, taking passes, tackling. His triumphant yell comes every 10 minutes, "And he's through!" (In Willy's Bwlkman accent, "through" comes out as a cross between "sroo" and "truu".)

I quiz him. Adult attention is a gift at the age of 10, even in the guise of interrogation.

"You wanna be rich when you grow up Willy? Or you wanna be poor?"

"Poor ... no! Rich."

"You wanna be rich, you go to university, eh?"

"I'm gonna play for Cowboys."

"Oh, OK. You do that. But you wanna be rich, you go to university."

Understand, please, that by "rich" I don't mean rich rich. I am merely asking if Willy wants to own a decent car, become somebody with a job; a man living in the same house from one season to the next. (A house, perhaps, that has an actual lounge for sitting on, rather than beds banked up in the lounge room to accommodate myriad homeless relations.) Blackfella rich. And I doubt very much that Willy knows, at 10 years old, what a university is.

Willy's grandmother notices this small exchange of ours. The next day she nods towards her grandson, who is again on the PlayStation, dodging down the wing with an opponent in hot pursuit, not yet through.

"You should take Willy with you when you go. Put him in school down south."

I smile, unsure how to respond. Is it child removal if the family wants it? And what about my own mildly disabled son? Could either of them cope with the other? Could I?

"What you reckon, Willy? Wanna come down south and go to school?"
"Nah, I wanna play football." Futboll.

"Do both."

Sometime between the monumental task of finding someone with petrol to take me to the airport and retrieving my mobile phone from an errant teenager, the half-idea fades away. My friend and I fly back to Townsville, and the next day I'm home again in northern NSW.

 

THREE AND A half thousand people live on greater palm island, off Townsville, the vast majority Aboriginal. Once the island was the sole preserve of its traditional owners, a clan of the Wulkurakaba. Now, as a result of the Queensland Government policies of containment and removal since 1918, 48 different tribes have descendants on the island. After seven generations of forced imports from elsewhere across Queensland, a tenuous pan-island identity has formed. These Palm Islanders call themselves "Bwlkman". Teachers and the few other professionals on the island are mainly whites – but I saw no whites, other than police, during my stay. The Bwlkman are the road workers, the single parents, the council staff, the school students, the unemployed and one or two business owners.

The Bwlkman and the whites live together on an island of great natural beauty, where dense eucalypt forests dotted with pandanus and mangoes grow down steep rocky slopes to meet the tourist-brochure sea. I recall a North Queensland Murri woman telling me years ago that Palm was under threat from developers, that it was a most beautiful tropical island, "paradise". At the time, I ignorantly put this claim down to small-town pride, but I was wrong. After all, less than a kilometre from Greater Palm sits its geographic sister, Orpheus Island, an international tourist resort, where you can pay, at minimum, $1100 for a single room per night. Where: "To find yourself, you must first of all lose yourself. And if you must lose yourself, what better place than amidst the world's greatest natural wonder – the Great Barrier Reef. This is Orpheus.A coral fringed island resort within its own national park. An exclusive, sophisticated hideaway for those seeking intimate experiences in a natural, relaxed retreat." The Orpheus website urges the cashed-up visitor not to miss its "fly for free offer". All meals included. You don't say.

So I was wrong. Palm is indeed physically stunning in the way that Port Douglas and Vanuatu and Fiji are. As the seven-seater plane descends to the tiny airstrip at Butler Bay, only a single trashed house alerts the outsider that there is anything much amiss on Palm. The Besser-block terminal is clean and decorated with children's bright posters telling the public what makes them "feel safe" and "feel unsafe". Even the graffiti on the Ladies' and Men's toilet signs – "Sluts" and "Cats" respectively – seems more a teenage boast than a serious social affront.

As we drive the 10 minutes around to the main settlement, my mouth falls open at the sheer loveliness of the landscape.

There are some dead cars littering the yards, true, and some mangy dogs ("pink panthers") that might well wish themselves dead, but this is the case in many small Australian settlements, and throughout most of the Pacific for that matter. Squint hard while you gaze upon Palm Island and you could easily think yourself in Suva, Nuku'alofa or Vava'u: in a pretty, sleepy, poverty-stricken place of dark people, coconut trees and not enough jobs to go around. Fail to squint, though, and you might notice another story going on, one of racist exclusion, huge levels of interpersonal violence and the recent death in police custody of an innocuous, well-liked local man.

 

ALTHOUGH THIS IS not an essay about the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee, it is still important to note the facts of his story. Doomadgee was 36 when he died in November 2004. In death, he joins the more than 130 Aborigines who have died in custody since the 1988 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (www.hreoc.gov.au).

On the day of his death, Doomadgee had been working. He set out early, as he regularly did, and went fishing for mudcrabs, which he then sold for tobacco and beer money. In one of many small sour ironies surrounding his death, Doomadgee had his own small business, an evolvement touted, perhaps accurately, as the coming salvation of our indigenous economy.

When the police drove past him, Doomadgee was sitting alone drinking by the roadside, singing Who Let the Dogs Out. It is easy to imagine what happened next though, of course, we will never be entirely sure. It is certainly easy to imagine how the police might have got their backs up, "dogs" being Bwlkman-speak for "cops", and it is certainly a fact, not imagination, that Doomadgee was arrested as a public nuisance. He had been drinking steadily for some time, and his blood alcohol read .29 – almost six times the legal driving limit. (In a clear recognition that watchhouses are extremely dangerous places for Aborigines, the royal commission had strongly recommended that police custody be used only as a last resort for those accused of public drunkenness. But there is no diversionary facility for drunks on Palm Island, the largest remote Aboriginal community in Australia.)

When Doomadgee's partner went to the police station that afternoon to check on him and take him some food, she was told to return the next day. "They [police] wouldn't look at us, they looked past us, over our heads," Tracy Twaddle recalled. "I knew something was wrong because he didn't answer when we called out, outside the cell."

When the family did return, Doomadgee was dead. Four of his ribs were broken, one fatally puncturing his liver. "He must have died in agony," said family spokesman Brad Foster. Foster later argued that, as an ex-footballer, he had seen many injuries happen through on-field collisions of big heavy men, and that he had never seen any damage nearly as serious as Doomadgee sustained allegedly from a fall on concrete after "a scuffle".

A coronial investigation began shortly after the death, with the involvement of the Criminal Misconduct Commission. One week later, on November 26, the chair of the Palm Island council, Erykah Kyle, was forced to announce to an angry crowd of about 200 people gathered outside the council offices that Doomadgee's death had been ruled an accident. He had "fallen on concrete" while in police custody. His four broken ribs and punctured liver might have been related, somehow, to a car accident he had been in several days before his arrest. The police on Palm were seemingly so divorced from the residents that the crowd's incandescent anger over this ruling took them by surprise. Public order evaporated.

The police fled, some of them shirtless and in bare feet, as stones flew. One black man chucked a petrol bomb that burnt the police station and police residence to the ground. Extra police were radioed for from Townsville. Knowing this, some Bwlkman drove to the airstrip and blockaded it with their cars, forcing the plane load of reinforcements to return to the mainland. Not that the Australian state would be denied – six helicopters were sent instead, complete with white cops in riot gear. Palm Island briefly became an Arnie movie. Nineteen rioters were arrested. White teachers and health workers fled on the first available plane out and black residents locked themselves inside their homes as police began a program of raiding black houses "looking for drugs". Invariably, they found nothing, but left in their wake terrified kids and seething locals.

Bwlkman were furious about the arrests, the police raids and the sudden intrusion into their lives, as well as about Doomadgee's death. Bradley Foster, the Doomadgee family spokesman, told how, a month after the death in custody, police intimidation was continuing on the island: "On December 31 my younger brother was sitting at home here. Three car loads of coppers rocked up in full-body riot gear with masks on, with two plain-clothes police. They smashed the front and back doors and walked straight into the house. There were six kids asleep in the lounge room who were disturbed by what happened ... That kind of behaviour hasn't stopped yet ... There are 30 or 40 coppers on the island and it makes you wonder what they're still doing here."

 

AUNTIE M, SPEAKING mid-January: "i'm scared to go outside, you know. The police are all here, dressed up in thick clothes like they need in some foreign country. Why are they here? We don't have guns or anything. We don't want them here – we're not like that. Bin Laden not here. I'm scared of them ...They drive round slow, you know, round the streets. ("Cruising" offers someone else at the dining table.) Yes, that's it – cruising ... they come past my house. 'Good morning, Mrs Foster'. I say good morning. How they know my name? I never told them my name ... and they say the police put guns to young X's head ... little kid ...Willy there. I asked Willy, 'What was he doing when they did that?', and he said he was just playing football."

I am reluctant to ask too many intrusive questions about such an upsetting incident. In the end, I'm not sure whether it was 10-year-old Willy himself, or another kid his size. It hardly matters – Willy, and his peers, and indeed every Palm Islander, must have known that same day that the incident had occurred. Such events take on a life of their own and in the retelling quickly become legendary.

Bin Laden is not on Palm Island and is probably not yet to be found in the ranks of Aborigines in mainland Australia, either. But one clear result of the Doomadgee death can be seen at the airport terminal, in the children's posters portraying their lives. On two of the posters, lists of "things that make me feel safe" had once, surprisingly, included police. Someone – perhaps Shania or Tanealle in grade three, but I think more likely not – has scratched out "police", replacing the word with a fat public smear of Aboriginal dissent.

 

BUT THEN ABORIGINAL dissent is an ongoing theme on Palm Island, one that has been present since Europeans first took control of the island. In many ways Aboriginal dissent is what modern Palm Island is all about.

Greater Palm has always, in human memory, been inhabited by its traditional owners. In 1918, a cyclone on the nearby mainland led the Queensland Government to add other Aborigines and Islanders to the Wulkurakaba. The black population was gradually increased over several decades by the importation of Aborigines too rebellious, too fractious, to be allowed to stay on other missions and reserves in Queensland. Greater Palm Island eventually became the "prisoners' prison" – a suitably isolated place for blacks to be threatened with when the normal brutality and institutionalism of Queensland reserves didn't quell them.

The role of Queensland's Aboriginal reserves was multiple. One early role was to "protect" the white population from miscegenation (the "half-caste menace"), by segregating black from white and, where possible, from those of mixed race as well. Another aspect of protection was to provide blacks with a haven from the worst abuses of invading white pastoralists:

The habit of regarding the natives as vermin to be cleared off the face of the earth has given to the average Queenslander a tone of brutality and cruelty ... I have heard men of culture and refinement of the greatest humanity to their fellow whites ... talk, not only of the wholesale butchery ... but of the individual murder of natives, exactly as if they would talk of a day's sport, of the having to kill troublesome animals.

– British High Commissioner Arthur Gordon, 1883

Missions and reserves were boltholes before they were hellholes; the embarrassment caused to governments by massacres being reported in Britain could be minimised if the natives were housed in compounds, controlled and kept apart from their natural enemy, the white "selector".

Some missionaries and administrators of reserves were humanitarians doing what they considered to be "good work" with Aborigines. Others were little more than sadistic lunatics unable to find positions in mainstream society. Regardless of the character of the individuals placed over them, Murri people lived for almost a century under their absolute authority. The Queensland Aborigines and Islanders Protection Act was a piece of draconian legislation that shaped Murri lives then, and continues to influence us now.

To gain some very slight understanding of mission life, think about your present boss. Now let's say that this person will be the boss, not just of your working hours, but of your entire life, for an indefinite period. It could be one year; it could be the next 20, until he or she is replaced, through a distant government decision, by another manager from an alien culture. Imagine that you need this person's permission to leave your suburb, to visit another town, to be out after dark, to operate an electrical device, to chop down or plant a tree in your garden, to change jobs, to marry, to move house. Imagine that this person can fire you or provide you with a cushy job, remove your kids if he or she wishes, banish you from your home, cut your hair, order you flogged, fine you or imprison you without trial if you try to abscond. This person also controls your bankbook, which you probably have never seen. An important underlying assumption is that this person automatically considers you his or her physical, intellectual and social inferior. There is no system of appeal should you disagree with his or her decisions; there is no requirement on him or her to do anything other than keep you alive. Such was mission life for Aborigines throughout most of the 20th century.

Murri people "under the act" found themselves the prisoners of an alien civilisation and were accurately referred to as "inmates". Life on all Queensland Aboriginal missions and reserves was generally hard, humiliating and painful. You remained on a reserve, or left it, at the whim of the white manager. Legal rights for Aborigines were unknown. Welfare officers freely entered black homes in order to inspect our toilets, our kitchens, our bedrooms, our hair. Children, languages, land – all were taken with impunity.

Senior Aboriginal men and women, the culture-bearers and authorities of their own people, were regarded by whites, generally, as children or "savages". Locals starkly described the welcome given to senior men moved to Palm Island from Cape York in the 1940s "They took those old men, you know, lined them up and stripped them naked. They had them all in a line, and the white man, doctor, manager, I don't know, he poked and prodded them, you know. Made them bend over and felt their private parts ... very humiliating for those lawmen, you know. Shocking."

White readers may automatically assume a benign medical imperative for such behaviour. Those who grew up under the act, though, view such behaviour more in terms of Abu Grahib – as purposeful humiliation, as the breaking down of black authority in order that the white man could rule.

In this state-wide racist system of controlling black lives, Palm Island became the "enforcer". For in spite of their miserable conditions, over the years ordinary Aboriginal missions like Cherbourg, Woorabinda and Purga did become homes to their Aboriginal inhabitants ... no matter how humble. Therefore, after "disappearance" (the worldwide euphemism for being taken out the back and shot), removal to Palm Island lurked as the bogeyman in the 20th-century indigenous imagination. Just as intransigent black American slaves were threatened with being "sold down the river", off the plantation and away from husbands, wives and children, we Murris were threatened with being sent to Palm.

Jack up about the weevils in your Cherbourg porridge once too often and it was off to Palm Island with you. Run away from work when your white pastoralist employer rapes you again and it's off to Palm as punishment. Smack the Kowanyama superintendent in the mouth after a lifetime of degradation and it was probably a severe flogging, a spell in jail and off to Palm. From a white perspective, Palm Island housed the "worst of the worst" blacks. For Murri people, the bravest and most outspoken were picked off and isolated on Palm Island, where they could do little damage to an oppressive system.

Historian Henry Reynolds went to Palm Island in the 1970s and found Murri children crying in a dark corner of the police lockup. Naughty children, who didn't do as the teacher said. What else for it but to jail them? Those children would now be in their 40s and contemporaries of Cameron Doomadgee.

 

AUNTY M TELLS me of growing up in the Palm Island dormitory during the 1940S,the removed child of a removed child. A woman seemingly at peace with herself, Aunty M is one of the island's oldest inhabitants. The Sacred Heart adorns her wall; the Catholic sisters appear early on Sunday morning to give her a coveted lift to Mass. Her mellifluous voice is an instant giveaway of her church education. Nobody swears in her presence. As with most older Aborigines, her memories are a mixture of the painful and the sweet: "It was all bells when we were young. First bell you had to be at home. Second bell you had to be in bed asleep ... But old Uncle ... sometimes he'd come home late. They didn't make a big deal about it with him. 'Goodnight,' he'd say to the authorities, if he got home late from fishing. 'Good night,' they'd say. They didn't say anything more, 'cos they knew what sort of person he was, see ... I could speak my language when I came here. Waanyi. But we weren't allowed to speak it ... there was harshness sometimes. But then it got better, there were new people who came, a new matron, and they introduced fruit, and ice-cream on your birthday. What a wonderful thing we thought that was, ice-cream. Oh, I'd try and line up twice, to get another go at it ... And Christmas! Oh, Christmas was wo-o-nderful, because you got to spend the whole day with your family. You might see them other times, on weekends and that, but on Christmas you got the whole day."

When Mulrunji Doomadgee died in the police lockup, the Catholic bishops of Townsville lined up their white parishioners who all shook hands with local Aboriginal elders as a gesture of friendship and, I suppose, solidarity, in the wake of the death. Small gestures like this go a long way with some Aborigines; Aunty M makes a special point of telling me about it.

Palm Island being what it is, though, even Aunty M has been forced towards radicalism in her time. She was one of the original "Magnificent Seven" – black claimants to wages that had been kept from them by the Queensland Government during decades of unpaid labour. Considered lazy, stupid and impossible to train, Aboriginal people were paid by the Queensland Government at a rate one-third of that paid to whites. Many years of unpaid and underpaid work that was done prior to the 1975 federal Race Discrimination Act will never be compensated. If, as a Queensland Aborigine, you can prove that you worked for lower wages after the 1975 act was passed, you might be offered a belated "compensation package" for those years of work.

As we sit in Aunty M's modest kitchen, a constant stream of younger relations flows in and out. Some are just looking for a yarn but most are hunting for a feed among the out-of-date groceries that Palm Islanders take for granted. Watching them, I am doubly glad to have brought fresh supplies of meat, bread and milk with me. Aunty M hides the sugar from the horde and tells me her thoughts on wage justice for Aborigines. "I went to the Government and fought it. We all did, seven of us. I got $7,000 and a kiss on the cheek from the minister. They said to us, we might get more if we fought it through the court. I said to them, 'I might not be round by then.' 'Cos some of the people already died, you know. Better to take it ... because you might lose the lot, see ... Seven thousand. And a kiss on the cheek. Hmm."

As with misplaced notions about stolen children, in the minds of most outsiders who have heard about the stolen wages fight, it was the injustice of a far-off time, generations ago. But no. As late as 1982, during the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, blacks on Queensland missions were still being paid about one third of white wages. A Murri woman in her 30s, sitting at Aunty M's kitchen table, recalls that she was told that, with luck, she'd be repaid $22,000 of wages owing, if she chose to go through the court process. Twenty-two thousand or else nothing. Born in the '60s, schooled in the '70s and a worker on Palm Island in the '80s, she took the seven grand.

 

THE ACT ENABLING the herding and exploitation of aboriginal people like so many head of cattle has now been repealed but colonisation is far from dead in North Queensland. Murri attitudes formed on the frontier, in the dormitory system and under white overseers – attitudes to white authority, to white law, to white education and to the ideas of mainstream Australia – are still often hostile, or at the very least cynical. And nor have the ideas on the white side, the other side of the frontier, changed very much. It was in the 1990s, you'll remember, that One Nation proposed feeding Aborigines meat in exchange for labour and in the 1990s that One Nation received almost one quarter of the Queensland vote. Townsville, the closest city to Palm Island, has long been an army town and has never been noted for its liberalism. The situation for Murri people in Townsville I was told by locals, has greatly worsened over the past decade.

Can you name the last Aboriginal boy who died a violent, publicised death? No, not the one in Redfern. The one before that, in November 2003. Only, it wasn't custody he died in. It was a suburban Townsville street. Remember? This teenager, Errol Wyles, was at a party when the skinheads made themselves known. Errol was leaving the party when he was forced to leap out of the way of a car driven by a young white man who then proceeded to reverse his car over the Aboriginal lad. He then drove off, leaving Errol to die. This white man was arrested and charged by Townsville police, not with murder, or even manslaughter, but with dangerous driving causing death. He was ordered to serve four years in prison, and lost his license for five.

Young Murri people, boys especially, walk only in groups in Townsville, thus equalling "gangs" and presenting a fearful sight to some hysterical people in white society. But if they walk singly, young black men are easy game for the real gangs – gangs of skinheads who hunt them (... exactly as if they would talk of a day's sport, of the having to kill troublesome animals ...). The skinheads like easy targets. That's why carloads of them are known to turn up at the Townsville drinking spot "Happy Valley" to bash the Aboriginal drunks there. As Happy Valley is next door to the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre, there is now an idea of turning one of the prison security cameras outward. This camera would survey the cars entering and leaving Happy Valley and document, and perhaps prevent, the bashings. But then the cell where Doomadgee died had a security camera in it, too – a camera that the family believes was turned off while Doomadgee died a hideous death there.

My friend, a gay woman in her 30s (and, since she is island-born, technically Palm Island's first university graduate) lives in Townsville and wants to study postgraduate law. She and her partner are in need of a flat and have a discussion in my presence about the best suburbs for students. Heatley is handy. My friend says they can't live in Heatley because she and her partner have no car, and living there will occasionally mean walking home. Too dangerous. You don't walk home alone from university in Townsville, not if you're visibly Aboriginal or Islander. My friend's nephew is knocked from his pushbike by a car driven by white men. They don't stop. Luckily, he isn't badly hurt. A Torres Strait Island boy is bashed on the footpath in Heatley by white men he's never seen before. And a dark-skinned Murri man tells me, "All this crap in the media about Palm ... I feel a lot fucking safer on Palm Island than I do in Townsville or Brisbane."

I don't dispute it for a minute. As an obviously black male walking Townsville's streets, he is a marked man. But were he a black woman or child living on Palm Island, or someone bearing another mark of weakness or exclusion there (wrong family, wrong skin tone, wrong sexuality) his comment might not ring so true.

On Palm Island, as in many communities of prisoners and refugees around the world, violence owed to the state is regularly dispensed closer to home. Seriously, even criminally, under-funded for years, the settlement on Palm was cut adrift by the Queensland Government in the early '80s as Aborigines asserted themselves as citizens with rights to equal pay. Hundreds of Aboriginal workers were sacked. Already meagre government funds dried up, mission control finally withered, and then, as now, there was inadequate policing of the community. In keeping with its historic status, Palm Island remained conveniently out of sight and out of mind. A community of thousands was created and institutionalised, and then its working population was sacked and scores of black families were left to subsist on welfare and anger. Brisbane historian Ros Kidd documented this history in her The Way We Civilise (University of Queensland Press, 1997) and argues: "The Government predicted this [sacking of 1500 Aboriginal workers in Palm, Woorabinda and Cherbourg settlements] would increase community upheaval, alcoholism, violence etc and just sat back and watched it happen."

Domestic violence is common enough in the white homes of Townsville but in former missions and reserves, two decades since the mass sackings and withdrawal of government services, it has reached epidemic proportions. A culture of child abuse and pack rape is being recognised as the scourge of many remote and not-so-remote Aboriginal communities. Young black children are regularly treated in Townsville and Cairns base hospitals for venereal disease, while battering your wife or girlfriend is colloquially known throughout Queensland as "Murri love".

Judy Atkinson was just one of a brave coterie of black women who spoke out early and wrote about the violence faced by the women and kids of Aboriginal Australia. Visiting an anonymous remote Queensland community in the '90s, Atkinson encountered a shell-shocked friend and asked her what was wrong. She at first refused to answer but, when pressed, finally spoke. "It's nothing," said the friend, "I just got raped again last night."

The millionaires relaxing on Orpheus Island might be more than a little surprised to be informed that Palm's murder rate is reportedly higher than that of New York. And while it's hotly disputed by everyone, from locals to the Queensland Government, the Guinness Book of Records in 1999 listed Palm Island as the most violent place on earth outside a combat zone. Beds might be at a premium on Palm but nobody's lining up to pay $1100 a night for one, least of all the black kids who might be saved from constant sexual molestation by having beds, or bedrooms, of their own.

So here's the thing: be black and from Palm Island. You can live in stark poverty and physical danger, fearing police and your own people. Or you can scrimp and save a $100 airfare and go over the water. You can try to live in the white man's world, where your dark skin tells the killers what they care to know about you and where being from Palm Island is a passport to nowhere fast. Choices, choices ...

 

THREE DAYS AFTER I get back home it hits me properly for the first time. That old lady offered me her grandson. I ask my family to think about it. We debate child removal and the insidious habit outsiders have had over the centuries of rushing in to "rescue" the blacks. I question my motives and recall Huck Finn's objections to Aunt Polly: "She's gonna adopt me and civilise me and I can't stand it." I remember the boy at the Townsville party (he was my friend's cousin) run over and killed by a white man in an episode of dangerous driving. I remember, too, that I have nudged more than one northern Murri away from suicide over the years.

Nothing happens yet, you understand. Aunty M and I speak on the phone, and it is mooted that Willy come to live in the south at high school time, in a couple of years. Then, in my imagination, Willy flies across to Townsville and thence to Brisbane Airport, amazed at the sheer numbers of whitefellas in the world beyond Palm. Willy soars above the blue Pacific and leaves behind a lovely tropical island where white strangers put guns to young black people's heads; where unknown men in riot gear break down doors to force Australian citizens to the ground. Where children cry in fear of their fathers, uncles, cousins. Where rich is owning a car and poor means if you get home late there's no bed for you in your own home. Where you can go mudcrabbing for beer money, sing the wrong song and end up dead. We drive two hours south from Brisbane Airport to a green quiet place where Willy – a Palm Island boy, a bright lad, full of life and chutzpah – can take a crack at being black on Bundjalung land with books and horses, football and universities.

Willy's life expectancy rises 10 years during our drive down the Pacific Highway.

And he's through. 


From Griffith Review Edition 8: People like Us © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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