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    Minister for Communities, Disability Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
    The Honourable Warren Pitt

    Palm Island commemorates 50th anniversary of 1957 strike

    Minister for Communities, Disability Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
    The Honourable Warren Pitt

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Palm Island commemorates 50th anniversary of 1957 strike

    Palm Island residents and Indigenous leaders are gathering on Palm Island to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Palm Island strike.

    A local stage production of Strike ’57, markets, historical exhibitions and a dinner dance will mark the anniversary event.

    Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Partnerships Warren Pitt said on Palm Island today that the 1957 strike was an important historical event, and the government was pleased to support its commemoration.

    “The strike of 1957 was a significant event in Queensland’s history, and even more so in the history of Palm Island,” Mr Pitt said.

    “I believe it is important for the community to remember this historical event, and for the significance of this anniversary to be observed.”

    Palm Island was once renowned for its harsh administration and strict jail-like conditions, and was commonly referred to as “Punishment Island”.

    In 1957, seven Palm Island men led a strike against the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous people, after a petition to the superintendent demanding improved wages, health, housing and working conditions, was ignored.

    Although poor conditions were a major cause of the strike, the trigger was the superintendent’s decision to deport local Albie Geia, who had allegedly disobeyed an overseer. Geia refused to leave the island, united the community, and declared the strike on 10 June 1957.

    Five days later the strike was broken following dawn raids on the homes of the seven strike leaders. As punishment, the men and their families were banished from the Island, although their actions signified an important change.

    “These men stood up for the rights of Indigenous people and consequently more people chose to follow in their footsteps and fight for Indigenous rights,” Mr Pitt said.

    Mr Pitt apologised to Alma Geia and Pansy Watson, the surviving wives of two of the strikers, for the way their husbands had been treated, as well as to other family representatives of the strikers, and to the people of Palm Island.

    “I express my deep regret that these events took place. Indeed, that they could have taken place is an indictment of the prevailing policies and practices, the attitudes and the accompanying actions of the time.

    “I offer my sincere apologies to you for the grave injustice that was done, for the mistreatment of those men – for what was done to them – and for the enormous upheaval, hurt, pain and suffering caused to them and their families.”

    Mr Pitt presented commemorative medallions to Alma and Pansy, in memory of the strike and the involvement of their husbands, Albie Geia and George Watson.

    Media contact: Joe Begley 3235 4280