60th Anniversary of Strike 57
It became known as Strike 57, an unprecedented five-day strike 60-years ago this month by North Queensland’s Palm Island community for equal rights and social justice.
Minister for Local Government and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Mark Furner said the week of action was significant in the history of Palm Island and Queensland.
“The memory of the strike and its leaders – the Magnificent Seven – remain to this day as an important and revered part of the culture and customs of the Palm Island community,” Mr Furner said.
“Strike 57 is for many Indigenous North Queenslanders not only a reflection on past injustices, but also a celebration of community achievements and aspirations.”
From the early 1920s until the 1960s, Indigenous Queenslanders from more than 40 language and clan groups were removed from their communities by force to Palm Island, a penal settlement also known as Punishment Island.
In June 1957, Willie Thaiday, Albert Geia, Eric Lymburner, Sonny Sibley, Bill Congoo, George Watson and Gordon Tapau led a 5-day Island-wide strike over working conditions and unpaid wages.
The seven men became known as the Magnificent Seven.
Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said movements such as Strike 57 were important in shaping national dialogue around historic injustices and positive futures for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“The Magnificent Seven will forever be remembered on Palm Island for their courage and conviction in challenging the administrators of 1957 for fair work and decent social conditions for the entire community,” Mayor Lacey said.
“All seven were banished for their actions, but have inspired a positive legacy for a better future for all Palm Island residents and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.
“As we reflect on Palm Island’s history and consider our future, it’s important to remember each town and community has unique stories of Indigenous peoples’ struggles and uprisings under past apartheid-like arrangements.
“New generations of Queenslanders, including Palm Islanders, inspired by ancestors are working towards a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Old stories deserve to be shared to help all Queenslanders better understand Australia’s past and work together towards reconciliation.
“Nation-defining actions such as Palm Island’s Strike 57 and the Northern Territory’s Wave Hill Walk-Off or Gurindji strike are important stories in our nation’s shared history as we write a new chapter for Australia’s First Nations peoples.”
Strike 57 and the Magnificent Seven are recognised with a public holiday on Palm Island on Friday, June 16.
Mr Furner said the Palaszczuk Government proudly supported Strike 57 commemorations on Palm Island and in Townsville.