chapter  8
22 Pages

The Shire and the canteen

News reached me that all was not well on Mornington Island and in 1985 I decided to return. During the intervening years there had been a fundamental change in the political and administrative organization of the kind that I had witnessed in Aurukun. In 1978, BjelkePetersen, the Premier of Queensland, had astutely turned Mornington and Aurukun into Shires to thwart the Federal Government from taking over Aurukun and its valuable bauxite resources. Despite all their huffing and puffing the Federal Government quickly caved in when confronted by the determined opposition of the Premier of Queensland. There were many complaints by the Mornington Islanders about the missionaries making a hasty departure and that they had not done enough to protect them from the takeover or to prevent it. What struck me when I first arrived was the number of White people. There were at least fifty, not counting their children. It was an absurd situation because as the Mornington Islanders supposedly proceeded along the road of self-determination there were more and more White people telling them what to do. A few White men had drifted into the community and had linked up with local girls and had thrown in their lot with the Mornington Islanders.37