Palm Island, Queensland as viewed from Wallaby Point.
After a tense run in with ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily, one of Queensland’s largest Indigenous communities is again calling for a dedicated evacuation centre.
Palm Island, located about 65km north-west of Townsville, was spared any significant damage after Kirrily made landfall between Townsville and Ingham.
However, Elders and vulnerable community members were still forced to evacuate to Townsville in preparation, while those that stayed bunkered down in their homes.
There are currently 12 public cyclone shelters in Queensland: Townsville, Ingham, Bowen, Proserpine, Mackay, Cairns, Innisfail, Cooktown, Port Douglas, Tully, Weipa, and Yeppoon.
Along with Palm Island, Wujal Wujal, Burketown, and the city of Bundaberg are also in need of a safe, resilient building to wait out severe storms.
Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Mislam Sam says overcrowding is a major issue in their 4000-strong community, with many extensions and smaller shelters not built to withstand a cyclone.
Mayor Sam also pointed out the affects climate change has on his community, being a small island community they’re among the first groups to feel and bear its impacts.
“We can see on a year-by-year basis how the weather trends are actually changing and somewhere down the line we’re going to get a severe Category 5 come through,” he says.
“And with predominantly overcrowding right across the board in my community a lot of people are building little huts to go and live in all our bays, there’s going to come a time where the need for an evacuation centre is real, and vital, in regard to loss of life.
“It’s definitely something that’s required for my community because like I said climate change is real and an evacuation centre is going to play a key role in saving lives into the future.”
The Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council are currently working on a business proposal for a grant funding to be build the evacuation centre, Mayor Sam just hopes it before the next big cyclone hits.
You can listen Mayor Mislam Sam’s full interview here: