Social Justice Poetry

Rottnest Island | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

The wind blows across the dunes,
low trees and shallow lakes.
It doesn’t weep or cry aloud
but it should.
The swells roll across the sea,
curl in foam then slap on the white sand.
They have neither words nor tears
but they should.
The luxury boats bob at their moorings,
and the restaurants stare out to sea.
They do not weep or cry aloud
but they should.
Should they not weep for the 369
indigenous men and boys
perished from disease, malnourishment
or the cruel violence of guards?
Should they not weep for the 3700
indigenous men and boys
cramped in fetid cells now converted
to luxury accommodation?
Should they not weep for men
ripped from the Karri forests of the south,
or the red soil of the north
and imprisoned on this low island?
Should they not weep
for these soft eyed men
with their bleak and hollow stares
and for all the horror of humanity’s history?
But always the wind blows across the dunes
and still the waves slap on the white sand.
They have neither tears to weep nor words to lament
but surely they should.

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Rottnest Island is a popular holiday resort situated 18 kilometres west of Fremantle, the port for Perth, capital of Western Australia. Daily, ferries take crowds out to the island and there is little remaining evidence of its sad history. From 1838 to 1931 Rottnest was a prison for Aborigines, taken from all over the large state of Western Australia. The airless, untoileted cells, into which seven men were cramped, were a tiny 1.7m x 3.00m. One in 10 of the prisoners died on the island and lie buried there in unmarked graves.

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