It’s sometimes quite useful to look to the past to help make sense of the present, and those predisposed to optimistic leanings might even say that to do so could help us learn how to do things differently in the future. The current state of events on Manus Island and Nauru bear at least a passing resemblance to what happened on Flinders Island almost 200 years ago.
Depending on what source you read, you’ll hear the story of Aborigines being moved to Flinders Island for their own safety following what were known as “the black wars.” The problem with this was not only the psychological effects on the population forcibly moved there, but also the fact that the conditions on the island were so poor in terms of housing, the elements, and the provision of sustainable food sources.
To read that today, in the 21st century, there are people living in amazingly stressful conditions, being, as they are, kept offshore for their own “safety” after fleeing dangerous conditions in their own home lands, is a stark reminder of the ways in which humanity has failed to evolve in a positive sense over the course of the last two centuries. Perhaps until we confront the negative legacies of our collective colonial past such stories will continue unabated. And when we consider just how much conflict and misery there currently exists around the world as a direct result of our colonial past, perhaps it’s nearing the time with which to have such a conversation.