Tag Archives: Torres Strait
Meet the woman preserving Horn Island’s most significant Word War II sites – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
It’s a fact of Australian political life that most questions put to voters by way of a referendum will be rejected. But in May 1967, voters overwhelmingly responded “yes” when asked the question “DO YOU APPROVE the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled— ‘An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population”
Just over 90% of voters supported the proposal, which became law in August of that year. There’s still some misunderstanding about what the result meant – but in essence, indigenous Australians were from then on to be counted in the census, and the Federal Government had acquired power to legislate for indigenous people. It was a significant step forward, and is commemorated every year with Recognition Day.
In Cairns, the local Tropical North QLD Institute of TAFE has a long tradition of putting on a concert featuring indigenous performers – this year that’s on tomorrow, Tuesday 27th May from 4-11pm. The program features up-and-coming local talent such as Ingrid Piper, Greta & Micki, Folkcentric, Kalen – Ja, Tamarind Rose, Indigenous Young Boyz, Elements and much more. And one of the rising stars of the far north Queensland music scene is on the bill – Danny Bani. He hails from Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, a man blessed with musical talent who has just released his first album – called db.
LISTEN to my interview with Danny and concert organiser Mark Fuccilli
The Recognition Day Concert is held at ‘R’ Block Theatre, entry via Newton Street, Manunda.
My last blog post was all about the sea journey from Cairns, through the Coral Sea to the Torres Strait islands and northern Cape York Peninsula. The MV Trinity Bay is the only working cargo ship in Australia that also carries passengers, and it takes about 40 hours from Cairns to Horn Island. After almost two very gentle days at sea, it was time to find my land legs and go wandering on Horn and Thursday islands.
There’s plenty to see on both, and the ferry ride between the two takes you across water so blue you’ll need to come up with a new adjective to describe it. On Horn Island, my guides were Liberty and Vanessa See Kee – who run the Torres Strait Heritage Museum and some very enjoyable tours of the island
Horn Island was a very active military base during World War Two. Vanessa and Liberty will show you the aircraft wrecks and tell you the stories – they know their stuff and they’re lovely people. Highly recommended! I also enjoyed our tour of Thursday Island, including the improbable military fort that sits on one of its highest points. Green Hill Fort was built in the 1890s amid fears that Russia might invade Australia, a prospect now regarded as having been very remote.
I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Everyone should see Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait islands at least once. I’ve been lucky – I’ve been to both several times. I’ve been by road and air, but last week I did the journey by sea. Wow! I’d run out of adjectives within a couple of hours of leaving Cairns. Far north Queensland is a stunning place, but looking at it from a ship doing a steady 11 knots on the Coral Sea gives you time to take it in, to marvel, to get inspired.
I travelled on the MV Trinity Bay, the only working cargo vessel in Australia that also carries passengers. Its main job is to be a lifeline for remote communities on Cape York, and in Torres Strait. It carries food supplies in refrigerated or freezer containers, general freight, cars – the vast bulk of freight going north from Cairns goes on the Trinity Bay. It stops offshore of Lockhart River, and at Horn Island & Thursday Island, and then at Seisia, near the tip of the Cape. A fleet of smaller vessels take freight on to island communities around Torres Strait.
Trinity Bay can take up to 48 passengers – we had 30 – in 15 cabins. It travels inside the Great Barrier Reef, so the sea is usually calm. It’s within sight of the coast for most of the 1000 kilometre journey, but you do get to see offshore islands, sand cays, and you get a real understanding of how big the reef is, and of its environmental importance.
It’s not the best way to get to the top of the Cape – nothing can compare to the sense of adventure and accomplishment that goes with the long, dusty road trip. But the sea journey is a very close second. And you could always have the best of both – drive one way, and send you & your car back by boat. The view from the passenger deck of the Trinity Bay is always special. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE
If you ask people to talk about Australian indigenous art, most will think immediately of dot paintings – a style that comes from the deserts of central Australia and is instantly recognisable all over the world as Australian and indigenous. It’s by far the most commercially successful branch of our indigenous arts scene. But it’s not the only style. Indigenous art varies widely in style and choice of medium across the country, but it can be hard for artists to compete with the universally popular dot paintings.
Many visitors are drawn to far north Queensland by indigenous art. We have many indigenous art centres around FNQ, and indigenous art is available in Cairns. For some years our city has put on CIAF – the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair, bringing many thousands of visitors and many economic benefits to artists and the region. CIAF was held in a scaled down form this year, and it remains to be seen how viable an event it will be in the future with significantly less State Government funding.
Around our region, indigenous arts centres encourage the cultural and spiritual expression which is central to indigenous art. But in many communities, the practice of art is also a valuable source of income, maybe the only viable way for people to remain in their country and make a living. So it’s crucial that their work can gain wider exposure – as it’s a very long journey to some of those arts centres.
The newly formed Indigenous Art Centre Alliance Inc hopes to address these challenges. It represents 13 arts centres in FNQ, Cape York Peninsula & Torres Strait. It’s members met in Cairns this week to consider the way forward. LISTEN to my interview with manager Pam Bigelow & Treasurer Dev Lengjel here
BRISBANE LION SIMON BLACK RETIRES & THE ASHES JUST FIVE WEEKS AWAY – PHIL STALEY’S THOUGHTS ON SPORTS
Brisbane Lions AFL legend Simon Black has announced his retirement after 322 games and 16 seasons with the club. He’s the second-last playing link to the side that won premierships in the early noughties. Simon has indicated he will look for a coaching role somewhere in Australian Rules.
We hear from Simon Black this week on Phil Staley’s Thoughts On Sports, and we look at the search for a new coach for the Aussie Socceroos, the rugby league blitz on Cape York and Torres Strait, and the countdown to the Ashes – test cricket is just five weeks away and the trash talk has started.
Australians love their sport – but I reckon no-one loves their sport quite like our Phil Staley. Indoor, outdoor, winter summer or somewhere in between – Phil loves it all. Stand at his desk here at ABC Far North and you get the feeling you’ve just run on to Lang Park or the MCG. Phil has a gift for talking about sport in a way that even people who can’t stand sport will enjoy.
He gets past the hype and the stats to the magic ingredient that makes sport so compelling – the people who play it and the people who love it. Phil talks about sport each Friday on ABC Far North at 5:15pm – now you can tune in online as well. Phil’s Thoughts on Sports are podcast too – search Phil Staley in your podcast app.
Not all that long ago, hundreds of luggers worked the waters of the Torres Strait in what was a lucrative and often dangerous industry – pearling. Luggers were small sailing vessels, traditionally used in fishing and pearling. There’s not many of them left now, but there’s one under restoration that has many Torres Strait stories to tell. And when it’s restored, the Antonia A99 will return to Torres Strait, as a floating class-room, a mobile museum, to help keep alive the stories of a really important time in far north Queensland history.
People came from all over the world to be part of the Torres Strait pearling boom. It’s perhaps not widely known that a significant number came from the nearby South Sea islands, especially from what are now the Pacific nations of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. This movement began several years before the notorious “black-birding” era, during which people of the South Sea islands were brought by trickery or by force to work the cane fields of Queensland, effectively as slaves.
Between 1863 and 1904, more than 60 thousand people were brought to Queensland from the islands of Melanesia. When black-birding ceased, not long after Australian Federation, many islanders went home, but a lot stayed here in Queensland. Most retained a strong sense of their Pacific islander identity, but they lost touch with family and communities in their homelands. Over the past decade, an organisation called Blackbird has been helping the descendants of those who stayed in Australia re-unite with the descendants of the families from which they were taken so long ago.
And Blackbird is driving the project to restore the Antonia A99 – the seemingly indestructible lugger that has survived many cyclones and has sunk three times. But she also holds records for pearl shell tonnage, is one of the largest and fastest luggers ever built, and has many dances and songs about her still performed today. It’s hoped Antonia A99 will go back to Torres Strait next year as a floating museum, visiting the islands she used to sail between, preserving the stories of those times and promoting awareness of the role South Sea islanders had in the Torres Strait pearling years. Mike Smith is the restoration project co-ordinator – LISTEN to my interview with Mike here
Fund-raising for the Antonia A99 project is underway now. You can get involved at http://www.pozible.com/project/31782