Monday, September 3, 2007

Days 52 & 53: Magnetic Island

The Magnetic Times anticipated our visit with an article that began by telling the story of seaman James Morrill. In 1846 he was shipwrecked at Cape Cleveland just opposite Magnetic Island. The local Aboriginal people welcomed James (“Jemmy”) into their lives and he lived with them for the next 17 years. The article continued: “if "foreign" survivors were to be washed ashore today on Magnetic Island they may well be welcomed by the locals but government policy, which has excised Magnetic Island (along with almost 5000 other Australia islands) from the Australian migration zone, could still see them forcibly transferred to Nauru.”

We were met by a small number of Townsvillans (?!?) who escorted us to Magnetic. It was great to have some local company on the paddle. Thanks in particular to Peter Handly of Amesty International (AI) who organised for our sea kayaking companions to join us. We parted company at Pinic Bay and made the final part of our paddle on our own. The seas had picked up and as we past the point, it became just a little challenging. We were told later that our greeting party was about to send out for us at our earlier stop, assuming that we would not be able to make it round the point. As it turned out, we did. And a party it was that greeted us. We were met by a vanguard in a little tiny. There was some threat that the children in the boat could have been thrown overboard. Thankfully, they were in good hands and the threat was averted. The party on land was about 30 adults and an array of kids. They presented us with two visas: Firstly, the ‘John Rudd, Kevin Howard Piss Off Visa’ (to symbolise the response to asylum seekers by the government if they were to land on Magnetic), and then the ‘People of Australia Welcome Visa’ (the visa that our welcoming party would like to extend to such people in need of protection). It was such a warm, generous welcome – the support & exceptional company has charged the batteries for our last long leg…down the east coast. Thanks to everyone for meeting us, and in particular to Mike and Kerry O’Grady for organising and putting us up.

(ps. You’ll have to watch the Visa(s) presentation…it’s a classic!)

We paddled back to Townsville the following afternoon where we were met local newspaper, radio and television journalists. The great work of Jen from AI generated a heap of media interest. From Townsville we took off with the latest member of the EXCISED team, Maree, heading for the Whitsundays.

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