Celebrations on Palm Island

PALM ISLAND DANCERS: Young dancers celebrate after the record was broken.
PALM ISLAND DANCERS: Young dancers celebrate after the record was broken. Alf Wilson

PALM Island is a water surrounded fortress 48 nautical miles across the ocean from Townsville and trucks play a vital role in daily life there.

Most of the food, equipment and other supplies are delivered on trucks which come by barge from the mainland.

Palm Island Barge Company is based at Lucinda near Ingham and its vessels Olympic and Lady Fraser cross the high seas five days a week for the trip to Palm.

"We take over a Hino hook lift truck every day, a Mitsubishi Fuso fridge truck three times a week, and a semi with a full load about once a week. We travel over there to Palm five days a week,” Barge Company administration manager Louise Reed said.

When the barge arrives at a ramp next to Palm's Reel Women Jetty there is a hive of activity.

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council has a fleet of trucks that travel on the 10km of bitumen roads and dirt tracks around the tropical island paradise.

Just how vital trucks are to the community (which has a population of 3500) was never more evident than during the Deadly Didge n Dance Festival from April 20 to 22.

This was a commemoration and reflection event to coincide with Palm Island's 100-year birthday and Big Rigs was there.

Jason Thimble drives a Hino for the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and does a variety of jobs.

"I carry anything and everything from equipment to luggage,” Jason said.

Long time Palm truck driver Rodger McKean, left, with rugby league legend Vern Daisy and Janelle Daisy.
Long time Palm truck driver Rodger McKean, left, with rugby league legend Vern Daisy and Janelle Daisy. Alf Wilson

Jason has a heavy rigid licence and is looking to upgrade so he can drive heavier vehicles.

The former quality rugby league player was hard at work during the festival and was happy to yarn to Big Rigs.

When off work, Jason enjoys going fishing in the abundant waters around the island.

"Yes the lifestyle here is great and the Hino is good for the job. There are lots of trucks here and other come often by barge,” he said.

In his heyday, Jason was a member of the North Queensland Cowboys Young Guns side in 1996.

Jason also holds two unique sporting records in the tropics.

In 1992 he was a member of each of the Raiders teams which took out the under 20, reserve grade and senior grand finals of the Palm Island Rugby League comp.

A year after Jason was in the Charters Towers under 20, reserve grade and A grade teams which won Townsville and District competition premierships.

Now aged 45, Jason will pull the footy boots from the cobwebs to line up for the Palm Island Barracudas at Allblacks carnivals if they are short of players.

A tough man on the field, Jason is an inspiration and role model to younger footballers.

These include Palm juniors which compete for their island in Townsville competitions.

Palm's population swelled by more than 1000 during the Centenary Festival with visitors from as far away as Brisbane, Cape York, the Torres Strait and Mount Isa.

Numerous council trucks were working during the festival.

Jason Thimble and his Hino on Palm Island.
Jason Thimble and his Hino on Palm Island. Alf Wilson

Long-serving local truck drivers include Josh Geia, Rodger McKean, Frank James, Lloyd Morgan, Bobby Ryan and Reynard Baira.

"I have driven trucks on Palm for more than 20 years and wouldn't want to be anywhere else,” Rodger said.

Frank has driven rubbish trucks for decades and reckons the views during his work are excellent.

"Most of us go fishing in the waters off Palm and there are many small boats here,” Frank said.

These versatile drivers are often called upon to use other skills as Jack of all trades Bobby Ryan discovered during the festival.

On April 21 there was an attempt to break the world's largest Aboriginal dancing record and enter the Guinness Book of Records.

The previous record had been with 250 dancers and on Palm about 280 took part.

Thousands gathered around watching the men, women and children dance continually for five minutes. Vantage points to snap photos were limited if you weren't in a front row.

Bobby was asked to climb onto the roof above the cabin of a truck to snap some pictures from an elevated view.

He did that with great results taking some sensational images.

While the record adjudicator said it appeared the attempt was successful, residents have to wait for an official decision from London.

One of the dancers was Townsville based Federal Member for Herbert Cathy O'Toole who was glowing in her praise of the island.

"This has been a wonderful experience and I enjoy coming to Palm Island,” Mrs O'Toole said

Topics:  deadly didge n dance festival palm island truckin' in the tropics

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