Palm Island & Our People

This exhibition is in the past.
22 September 2018 - 22 April 2019
kuril dhagun

The inspiring history of Palm Island is celebrated in a fascinating showcase of images, memorabilia and digital stories. 

The showcase provides an opportunity to commemorate the past 100 years and to celebrate a new future for the Palm Island people, focussing on the themes past, present and future.

State Library acknowledges the significant contribution of the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and the Bwgcolman Indigenous Knowledge Centre in the development of this exhibition. 

Palm Island  & Our People digital story

In 2018, the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council celebrates 100 years of island occupation. This digital story was produced as part of the 2018 State Library of Queensland exhibition 'Palm Island & Our People', and explores the origins of Bwgcolman, how Palm Island has evolved since it became a government reserve, how the community reflects diverse cultural identities, how it has commemorated its centenary and its hopes for the future.

MMS ID 99183606317802061

About the showcase

The showcase is both a commemoration and celebration, with the 2018 centenary providing a unique opportunity to reflect on the past through retelling and sharing stories of endurance, resilience and self-determination. The showcase and associated public programs allows Palm Island stories and truths to be shared with the broader Queensland community and visitors from far and wide. Journeys through the difficult and complex history from the establishment of the Palm Island Reserve under the ‘Protection Act’, the opening of Fantome Island as a lazaret, the establishment of the dormitories, and the strike of 1957.

Read more about Community History, Queensland Legislation and the Protection Act 

Explore the importance of keeping culture alive to the Bwgcolman people, through dance, language and how football, boxing and netball have become extremely popular sports and a source of community connectedness. Contemporary Palm Island culture is highlighted, focusing on the community events held throughout 2018, including the Deadly Didge ‘n Dance Festival. Tributes and acknowledgement are paid to important Palm Island figures who have contributed significantly to improving life and conditions on the island, including Alf Palmer, Iris Clay and Harry Johnson.

Crowds gathered on the beach at Palm Island, Queensland. W. J. Lawrie, undated

Aboriginal Lock Hospital, Fantome Island (from gardens), ca. 1933-1946

Steamship S.S. Orminston at Palm Island, near Townsville, Lewis Plass, 1932

Group of Aboriginal women and children who were removed to the Hull River Aboriginal Mission at Mission Beach, ca. 1916

Palm Island men preparing for a ceremonial dance, ca 1930s

Young Palm Island boys and girls from the dormitories on Census day, 1921

Interior of the Girls’ dormitory, Report of the Director of Aboriginal Affairs, 1949 Copy Print Collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Decorated men dancing on Palm Island, ca. 1933

John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Neg: 63297

Barbara, midwife Palm Island, 1932 Thomas Lane Bancroft (1860 – 1933, Palm Island Photograph Album, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Matron Collins and Sister Gumley in the grounds of Palm Island Hospital

View of sunset from Palm Island, ca. 1949

John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Image no: 53289

Palm Island Football Team, date unknown

Copy Print Collection, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Neg: 127689

Community launch

The exhibition opened on 22 September 2018 to record crowds which was the icing on the cake of an action packed visit from Palm Island Elders, dignitaries and dancers.

Watch the official launch on the kuril dhagun Facebook page or read more on Indigenous voices blog.

Showcase information


22 Sep 2018 – 22 Apr 2019


kuril dhagun, level 1, State Library, Stanley Place, South Bank



Contact us

kuril dhagun

(07)3842 9824

Video tour of the Palm Island and Our People Exhibition 

Additional resources

Learning notes

To support exhibitions and events, State Library creates learning notes with teaching and learning activities linked directly to the Australian Curriculum. These notes are designed to enhance your onsite experience.

Indigenous languages map of Queensland

This resource map aims to raise awareness of the diversity of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and identify resources within State Library collections to support language research and community language revival

Palm Island, the island of sunshine

Wal Deutscher, Palm Island, the island of sunshine, ca. 1952, Acc: 3387, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland (video 1hour 2 minutes)

Palm Island Voice

The Palm Island Voice informs the local community of local, council and organisations news and activities together with social events which are taking place on Palm Island.

Digitised and available online State Library.