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Nun sees African-style fear in Palm Islanders

A Franciscan nun who worked with traumatised Africans in a Kenya refugee camp, yesterday expressed serious concern for indigenous children on Queensland's Palm Island, who are "frightened to death" of the armed police patrolling the streets.

Today's Courier Mail quotes Sr Christina McGlynn, who has worked in pastoral care in the Palm Island hospital for the past six months. Previously she worked in the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya with the Jesuit Refugee Service.

The scene on the island yesterday was one of a crush of Aborigines and police in full riot-squad armour milling around the main shopping mall yesterday. The tension continues following the riot prompted by the death in custody 10 days ago of 36 year old Cameron Doomadgee.

Sr Christina said what she has witnessed in the past days has taken her back to the same fear and anger she saw in the most troubled parts of Africa.

"It is a tragedy this gentle man died in custody," she said. "But to say that four broken ribs and a ruptured liver is a consequence of a fall is something I, as a trained nurse, find hard to accept.

"This is a community of good people. There are a few wild characters around, but these happenings fan into a flame all the sorrows and experiences of the past. If the truth is not spoken and justice does not happen, reconciliation cannot happen. But if justice can be done, it will re-establish good communications."

Sister Christina came to Palm Island after two years at Kakuma in Kenya, where she was one of a team looking after 86,000 severely traumatised Sudanese, Ethiopian and Rwandan refugees.

She said the brutality and trauma she witnessed in Kenya was being replayed on Palm Island.

"The police are rampaging around looking for a missing gun and the kids are terrified," she said. "It is so painful to see these people suffering.

"I think there is something of a corporate post-traumatic syndrome with Aboriginal people with their dispossession, stolen children and deaths in custody.

"Unless you have support and help, reconciliation cannot occur because they are all part of the healing. I pray for these people."

Pictured: Sr Christina McGlynn with 16-year-old Rose and her baby boy leaving Kakuma for Tasmania (

Praying to heal the wounds (The Courier Mail 30/11/04)

Life returning to normal on Palm Island (ABC TV 7:30 Report 29/11/04)
Angry scenes at Palm Is court hearing (ABC News 29/11/04)
Anger appears to be spreading on Palm Island (ABC Radio PM 29/11/04)
Palm Islanders to face court (ABC Queensland 29/11/04)
Ferry evacuation after violence (Townsville Bulletin 27/11/04)

Missionary Who Helped African Refugees To Now Work In Australia (Catholic Mission 5/3/04)
Refugees: Somewhere in Africa (Australian Policy Online/Eureka Street 2/4/03)
Jesuit Refugee Service

30 Nov 2004