Postcards from Palm Island Open Day

The opportunity to meet new people, and become acquainted with a different culture is one of the many reasons I choose to travel. When the culture concerned is the oldest in the world, it is an encounter to be cherished. For this reason, attending the inaugural Open Day on Palm Island, Queensland promised an extra special occasion.

The event may not seem a big deal, but this was the first time the islanders had opened their community up to outsiders. Although there was already a ferry service, tourism hasn’t exactly been embraced, the close-knit  Bwgolman community has been suspicious of outsiders. The reasons for this would soon become apparent, but hopefully the winds of change are beginning to blow through the island.

Bwgolman children at the Palm Island Open Day, Queensland, Australia on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photIain Mallory-300-6 aboriginal_childrenography

Enjoying the show

Due to this isolation, visiting Palm Island offers an authentic experience, an opportunity to meet an indigenous people without the false ‘cultural experiences’ provided by other laid on tours.

The island elders organised the day, consulting with tourism experts. It was also run by the community, volunteers providing insights into the history, art and culture of indigenous Australians, or historical people as they refer to themselves. This added authenticity to the tours, real people, not trained guides.

There were a number of organised tours, along the beach and through the village explaining some of the history, and the cruelty of segregation endured here only a generation ago. It seems unbelievable that so recently in Australian history, skin colour was the cause of such injustice.

Their tales of hardship, harassment, and defiance are recounted through yarns. The art of storytelling, or yarning,  passes the history down through the generations, cherishing them, keeping the culture alive. Delivered in a matter-of-fact manner, unashamedly undiluted, but without any hint of malice towards the visitors with a skin tone similar to that of their past oppressors.

/aboriginal Bwgolman children dancers at the Palm Island Open Day, Queensland, Australia on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-5 aboriginal_children

Traditional dancing & costume

There was also the opportunity to try some traditional art, witness some dancing, and even try a few steps of our own. Giving up the day job probably wasn’t an option for most of us though. The team of young boys providing the dancing, was the liveliest display, their choreographed, but also spontaneous performance seemed combination of powerful message, and unspoken challenge.

Speaking to some other visitors, it was an unmitigated success, everybody had enjoyed the day, and come away with a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture. It’s a brave initiative, accepting the need for tourism but not compromising their culture. It deserves to become a successful venture.

Bwgolman children at the Palm Island Open Day, Queensland, Australia on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-6 aboriginal_children

Child’s play

Flat calm view from Palm Island, Queensland, Australia on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-8 palm_island

Flat calm

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2 Responses to “Postcards from Palm Island Open Day”

  1. Charli | Wanderlusters April 22, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    I was fascinated by indigenous Australian culture during our 12 month stay in the country. Their vibrant celebrations and traditions really captivated me. Sounds like Palm Island would have been a great place to visit.
    Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..The Diversity Of Life In The Kalahari

  2. Carol in Cairns April 21, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    Thank you for sharing this story Iain and brilliant that you were invited to highlight this community’s new tourist venture. Great images.

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Postcards from Palm Island Open Day