Dry strips of barren rock beaten by treacherous seas
high cliffs topped with sparse vegetation
No humans live in the spinifex
or fish the wild waters
wallaby, bandicoot, mouse exist alone.
Chief Protector came with wide and ponderous views
sent police ’round Carnarvon to Wyndham way.
With ever-pervading wisdom:
collect the ‘diseased pariahs’
isolate on Bernier and Dorre islands.
Were they really sick? Was their illness real?
History tells a tale, natives with no say;
chained by the neck in a boat
across the terror of the sea
to an unknown land.
You can live traditional, alfresco in the bush
You can hunt and fish, live your own way.
Our hospital, white doctor and nurses come
give you hope and sunshine,
make you whole again.
In this gaol no fella from my tribe
I can’t understand that man’s tongue, he is not my kin.
This is not my country, my ancestors are not here.
I cry, my grief is real
for my home is across the sea.
Wards are clean, view over dunes and grass
Doctor has wonder drug to cure your disease.
Those men that died yesterday
and the ones who passed last week:
they are no concern of yours.
That fella needs to go to his ancestors, you must send him home
His spirit cannot rest in this strange land.
I see so many die here, their graves are all around
I am frightened, I am scared –
Will I soon be one of the lost?
Kabbarli Bates comes to see – tombs of the living dead
Natives herded as animals, conditions unfit for humankind
Isolated and alone.
Families wait over the water
staring out to sea.
History tells the truth of men and women suffering here,
those who survived, found their way home,
many who died and were buried
far from ancestral lands.
All that is left … graves on barren islands.
Have we learnt from our past, found a better way,
where is the social justice now?