• Bwgcolman children lend a hand at the ribbon cutting ceremony at Fredrick William Clay Park. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The commemoration of Palm Island enables communities to reflect on the past 100 years and the Bwgcolman people's journey.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

12 Feb 2018 - 3:39 PM  UPDATED 12 Feb 2018 - 3:44 PM

Official public events have kicked off in North Queensland to mark the Palm Island Centenary, exploring life over the last 100 years with a special focus on the arrival of the Bwgcolman people.

From the history of health services to Education and community groups, people will be able to discover the Bwgcolman people's journey from the past, present and into the future.

For Palm Island, 2018 year is a year for many things. It’s a year of remembrance and mourning, a year of how far the community has come, and a year of looking ahead.

100 years ago, Palm Island became an Aboriginal reserve, after the Hull River Mission endured the wrath of a cyclone.

“The word Bwgcolman means ‘one people from many groups." 

For their ‘safety’, many Aboriginal people across many groups were forcefully removed from their homelands and relocated to Palm Island.

This was the beginning of severe oppression for the Aboriginal people on Palm Island. It was also the beginning of the Bwgcolman people.

Aunty Maggie Blackley, a Bwgcolman woman and decendant of the Stolen Generation said that her people were forced to come to Palm Island to make it their home.

“Palm Island’s first Bwgcolman people came on that barge. They sat together and they cried because there was several of them, but not a great number from each homeland," she described.

During one the group's tribal talks they decided to unite together by identifying as the ‘Bwgcolman’ people.

“The word Bwgcolman is derived from one of the language groups of the people on the boat, which means ‘one people from many groups’." 

On Wednesday evening, Elders, children, families and locals all flocked to a special event held at Frederick William Clay Park to hear stories and watch performances about the historic event.

The entire town was treated to a special buffet dinner organised by the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and it was followed by a fireworks display to finish off the evening.

Dates for the event coincide with the first forced placement of people on Great Palm Island. Events will include a re-enactment of the arrival of the first people placed on Palm Island, a community parade and historical collections and displays.

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