During World War II, when I was 12 years old my entire community of Hope Vale in Far North Queensland was rounded up by the army and transported south from our tropical Cape York to Woorabinda, in the arid country of central Queensland. Suspicions about loyalties in our German-Lutheran mission prompted allegations of a possible invasion, supported by Aborigines and that our people would use our bush expertise to lead the Japanese soldiers through unchartered territory. The American, General MacArthur, arrived in a huge bomber – it was so big it overshot the runway and got stuck in the mangrove mud.
We were celebrating my sister Emily’s birthday party when they came to get us. She didn’t even get to eat her cake. Without any food or water, army trucks arrived on that day in May 1942 and the people of Hope Vale were taken to the Cooktown boat landing and put on the steamer Poonda to Cairns, and then on a train south to Woorabinda Aboriginal reserve, a distance of 1,500km.
Many of my people died as a result of this event, we were refugees in our own country. Emily died there too, she was just a young girl. Many of us got sick, living bunched up in a foreign place without the ocean, which was our mother. It was many years after the war that the government decided to return us to Hope Vale.
The documentary A War of Hope features Roy’s story: https://youtu.be/zyP-uT693XQ