• A welcome to country and smoking ceremony opened the Deadly Didge n Dance Festival on Palm Island. (NITV)Source: NITV
Palm Island marked its centenary with a three-day cultural festival with some of the country's best First Nations performers, moving ceremonies and a world record attempt for the largest Aboriginal dance.
Ella Archibald-Binge

23 Apr 2018 - 11:49 AM  UPDATED 23 Apr 2018 - 12:00 PM

The Deadly Didge n Dance Festival was the largest of three centenary events across 2018, focusing on the community's past, present and future.

The festival was officially opened on Friday with a smoking ceremony, traditional dances and a strong message from the community: we’ve survived.

In 1918, Palm Island was a place of exile for those who disobeyed the strict government legislation that controlled the lives of Indigenous people in Queensland for much of the 20th century.

Often for trivial offences, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from more than 40 different clan groups were forcibly removed from their land and transported to the island.

Many can still remember the prison-like living conditions, including the town bell — which dictated meal times, roll calls and curfew. Men, women and children lived in separate dormitories. They did hard labour for low wages and lived off rations.

A century on, the community is celebrating its resilience and showing off the beauty of the island and its people.

On Saturday night, a replica of the infamous town bell was burned in an emotional fire ceremony  as the community looks to break free from its past and move towards a better future.

The festival also saw more than 250 dancers take the stage for a huge corroboree in a bid to break the record for the world's largest Aboriginal dance.

Organisers are hopeful that the world record attempt was successful, with the official verdict to be delivered in the coming weeks. 

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