I was just a young apprentice last time I went to Yarrabah. It was the late 1950’s, early 60’s, and we took the boat round the Cape from Cairns. I was an apprentice Fitter & Turner and the company I did my time with were big into sawmills. In those days the economy was sugar and timber; you never saw too many tourists. We went over to Yarrabah to the sawmill to do some maintenance. Thinking back now, it was tough working conditions for the he-men working there. No automation, sawdust everywhere and half a dozen men pushing the log through the saw by hand. There were a couple of men in front of the saw driving big wooden wedges in between the flitches of timber to seperate it and stop the saw from bogging. They were covered in sawdust from head to foot. It was the hardest work, even harder than cane cutting.The community was still a mission then.
This visit, I went around with young Gilmore Johnson. QRAM network coordinator . Gilmore is part of a Traditional Owner family from Yarrabah, so it was easy to meet the old timers and have a good yarn.
I don’t know why it’s taken me that long, but it was great to go back, meet some old relations from Darnley Island and Murray Island – many of the Island people were moved down to Yarrabah and other missions such as Palm Island.
Yarrabah is now a well-maintained and managed community and town. We met the Mayor, Councillors and CEO, had a yarn about the old times and the historic connections with the northern communities, as far north as the Torres Strait and even into Papua.
The conversation came around to what QRAM role was and how we could work with the people in Yarrabah to develop some pathways into multimedia. Yarrabah would one day love to have their own multimedia centre, to give the many talanted kids and artists in Yarrabah a place to develop their potential and build capacity in the Community.
Yarrabah is a beautiful place, stretching down the coast south of Cairns. It is close to Fitzroy Island, and has some of the best beaches you would ever see. The rainforest runs down to the beaches and there are great camping places to camp under rainforest canopy. If you are thinking about visiting for the day there are areas set aside along the foreshore to relax and experience the location. If you want to camp out, go see the council they are a great friemdly mob. We will soon be back, to work in our role of developing opportunities for young people in Yarrabah.