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‘This Fiction, It Don't Go Away’: Narrative as an Index to Palm Island's Past and Present

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2016

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Extract

From their foundation at the turn of the twentieth century, the remoteness from large population centres of Queensland's reserves for Aboriginal and Islander people was a key factor in maintaining them. Activism by the people themselves, reports and commentary by journalists, and research by historians like Charles Rowley, Raymond Evans, Henry Reynolds and Ros Kidd have raised the public's awareness of past and present reserve conditions. Although important in itself, the tide of events may seem to be of only marginal professional concern to students of literature, yet a question worth considering is whether textual analysis can contribute usefully to the reform process. In this essay I demonstrate a form that such a contribution might take, by examining an unofficial canon of texts associated with Palm Island. In some respects a representative place of confinement for Aboriginal and Islander people, Palm Island has been described as ‘the largest and historically most punitive of Queensland's reserves’ (Watson 1993: ix). I explore the texts for the insights they provide into the changing attitudes and understanding of whites and blacks, as the forces of repression and resistance have wrestled for dominance. My aim is to contribute to the conversations among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that are presently shaping Palm Island's future.

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Research Article
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 

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