Monday, March 21, 2011

Torres Strait Islander Migration to Cairns Before World War II

I wrote this dissertation in 1998 for an MLitt degree.

In the 1996 census there were 2 651 Torres Strait Islanders resident in the Cairns statistical area as well as a further 720 persons who reported dual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.[1]  One hundred years ago there were no Torres Strait Islanders residing in the Cairns and Yarrabah district.[2]  This dissertation explores this change through the  movement of Torres Strait Islanders from Torres Strait to Cairns and Yarrabah during the twentieth century.  In analysing this migration I will be examining the reasons for the migration, how Torres Strait Islanders came to the Cairns district and what life was like for them when they arrived there.

The migration south can be divided into three time periods.  The first migration occurred on a small scale before the Second World War.  The second wave of migration occurred with the evacuation of the civilian population from Thursday, Horn and Hammond Islands in 1942 when Torres Strait was under threat of Japanese attack and invasion.  The third and largest migration wave occurred from the 1950s onwards as people moved south in search of employment and a better life for themselves and their families.  Each successive wave paved the way for future migration.  In this dissertation, I will concentrate on the earliest wave of migration until the beginning of the Second World War.

A literature review uncovers little published information.  Apart from a few mentions of individual Torres Strait Islanders residing in the Cairns district, there is no published documentation of Torres Strait Islander migration to Cairns before the Second World War.
The literature on Malay Town, a shanty suburb of Cairns near the waterfront, and where most Torres Strait Islanders made their home, is equally sparse, being limited to a few chapters in a couple of books.  Devanny's account of a visit to Malay Town circa 1938 is useful, as it provides a firsthand account of the friendship and deprivation in Malay Town, from a progressive, non-indigenous perspective.[3]  Davison, writing of a visit to North Queensland in the early 1930s, also provides some brief information on Malay Town.[4]    Palmer, who spent several months in the Cairns district in 1932, set one of his novels here and included descriptions of Malay Town.[5]

Most of the information for the first wave of emigration to Cairns has been sourced from interviews, contemporary newspaper accounts and a variety of unpublished sources, including archival records, cemetery and funeral records as well as tombstone inscriptions.

Why did Torres Strait Islanders leave their homeland and come to Cairns at a time when the White Australia Policy was firmly entrenched and they would not have been made welcome?  Once there, what made them stay and how did they establish themselves in Cairns?  How did the White Australia Policy and its associated legislation impact on them?  How did the residents of Cairns perceive them?  What were the differences and similarities between the Pacific Islanders, and their descendants from Torres Strait, who migrated to Cairns; and the Australian South Sea Islanders, and their descendants, who were already resident here?  How were Torres Strait Islanders treated relative to Aborigines residing in the district?  Where in Cairns did they live and why?  What was life like in Cairns for them and their children?  Research into these questions provides some fascinating answers and throws light on aspects of Torres Strait history and migration to the mainland not previously explored. 

Above all, the history of Torres Strait migration to Cairns is the account of one man and his extended family, Douglas Pitt Jnr.  As this is a history of Torres Strait Islanders migrating to Cairns, there will of necessity be some detail provided on their family histories and relationships.  What little is known about them has been uncovered in obscure sources or recounted through interviews with their descendants.  In order not to overwhelm this dissertation with family history information, I have provided only brief genealogical details for most of the early migrants.  To better ascertain the family relationships, I have included a detailed family tree of the extended Pitt family in an appendix six.  However, it is important to provide some information in the dissertation, as this history is above all that of an extended family and the myriad links that connected them in the early part of the century, and which still connect their descendants today.

Douglas Pitt Jnr was the first Torres Strait Islander to settle in the Cairns district, arriving in 1905[6].  The history of early Torres Strait Islander immigration to Cairns revolves around him and his family.  The majority of Torres Strait Islander families who came to Cairns (as distinct from Yarrabah) before 1939 were related to them, with several of them working for or with Douglas Pitt Jnr and his brothers in the trochus, pearling and beche-de-mer fishery.  Why he came south and stayed, while other Torres Strait Islanders, who regularly sailed south with the pearling fleets, returned home, is a pivotal question worthy of detailed exploration, and one which I will cover in detail further on in the dissertation.

Douglas Pitt’s  father, also known as Douglas Pitt,[7]  was born on 31 January 1844 in Kingston, Jamaica.  He worked in the South Pacific, apparently becoming the owner of modest hotel  in Noumea, New Caledonia.  While here, he sailed to the Loyalty Island of Lifu and met and married Sopa (Sophie, Chopa) Calemo (or Wacondo)[8], the daughter of a chief.  He continued as an hotel owner until 1871 when he arrived in Torres Strait, settling at Murray Island.[9]

He is reported as having deserted from Carl Thorngren's boat, John Knox, at Darnley in August 1871 and was then involved as a skipper in the beche-de-mer trade with a crew of Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders from Murray Island[10].  By 1877 he had a small cutter and was engaged in fishing for beche-de-mer and pearl shell.[11]  His children were Mary Ann (Marianne, Merian), (who was born in Noumea and later married Sam Savage),[12]  William, Edward,  Robert, Douglas, Annie (Wazan), Louisa and Felicia.[13]  Douglas Pitt the elder had a "traditional wife" as well.[14]  The family migrated to Darnley Island some time after 1885, when it was arranged by Government Resident John Douglas to move the Pacific Islanders, then resident on Murray Island, to Darnley Island because Murray Island had been set aside specifically for the purposes of Indigenous Murray Islanders.[15]   This came about because of conflict and tension between Pacific Islanders and Murray Islanders, in which Douglas Pitt Snr played a prominent role.  In addition, Douglas Pitt Snr had the dubious honor of being the only person in Torres Strait who was prosecuted for unlawful occupation of crown land until the mid-1880s, having been fined 20 shillings around 1882.[16]

The younger Douglas Pitt married at the age of 17 and adopted a son of his brother Edward.  He began  working the waters of Torres Strait and Cape York for pearl shell.  In March 1899 he was on the lugger Rattler, in the vicinity of Howick Island in Bathurst Bay, when his boat and the rest of the pearling fleet were hit by cyclone Mahina.  307 lives were lost, but on the Rattler, Douglas Pitt, his wife, sister-in-law and a nine year old boy, William (Allam) Savage, eldest son of his sister Mary Ann Savage, survived, when their boat broke up, by swimming for twelve hours until they reached the mainland.  Pitt’s adopted son was drowned, along with the rest of his crew.[17]

The Pitt family owned many cutters and luggers and at times employed up to 200 men.  The younger Douglas Pitt had two cutters and a lugger.[18]  He called in at the Yarrabah Anglican Mission in 1905, fell in love with a woman at the Mission and stayed.  Although his wife Mary and their children lived with him at Yarrabah for a couple of years, he later sent her and the two children back to Torres Strait via the China Boat, a passenger ship to the Far East that called in at Thursday Island,  in September 1909.  Sometime after 1905 but before 1909 he sold his boats and engaged in teaching the mission residents how to fish and collect beche-de-mer.[19]  The woman he fell in love with and later married was Myra Kemble-Hopkins (also known as Topsy, Sister Myra or Myra Kemble), then aged 22, whose father, Arthur Hopkins, was Scottish and whose mother was of Kalkadoon and Afghan heritage.  She was born and raised in Cloncurry, where her father owned a cattle property, went to Melbourne Grammar School and then came to work at Yarrabah, as her father was friendly with the Gribbles at Yarrabah.[20]   Here she worked as the assistant teacher in the Girls' School and also managed the Children's Home.[21]

Douglas and Myra Pitt were married in Cairns on 13 April 1912 amidst some controversy, as he already had a wife and children.  The Protector of Aborigines at Thursday Island was against the pair marrying, because he had previously been married, but as Myra was pregnant, had deserted from Yarrabah and was not allowed back, the marriage was allowed to proceed after Douglas Pitt agreed to pay his first wife on Darnley Island 15 shillings a month maintenance and paid 3 years, or £27 in advance.[22]

Douglas Pitt was a noted musician and played in the Yarrabah Brass Band and Choir along with his future wife, Myra.[23]  He was an accomplished accordion player with a good singing voice.[24]  He taught the girls at the Mission typical Islander skills of making mats from pandanus leaves, and the men the art of grass thatching.[25]  Although living at Yarrabah in a new house constructed in late 1907, he still travelled widely, as the following reference in the Yarrabah Aboriginal News attests:  "Douglas Pitt returned to Yarrabah from Thursday Island on Feb. 11th (1908).  He received a hearty welcome for he is a general favourite with all.”[26]  In 1908 and 1909 Pitt was captain of the Mission ketch Katipunan and in 1909 also skippered the Matuba,[27]  as well as being appointed Quarter Master Sergeant to the Yarrabah Drill Company.[28]   He was in charge of building construction at the Mission.[29]  His work at Yarrabah was welcomed but it was evident that he was not considered one of the mission residents.  After he and his crew salvaged the engine from a sunken launch it was remarked that, "We should all thank Douglas Pitt and his crew in recovering the Nami's engine, he can show the Yarrabah people how to work, and we should have the same spirit and not even very little things would be left undone.”[30]

However it was for his legendary swimming feats that he was best known.  In March 1918, he lost his fishing boat the Sakaye in a cyclone off Green Island, Cairns, and was forced to swim to shore.  On 2 February 1920 during another cyclone off Yorkey's Knob, Cairns, his boat Kia-ora sank and he as well as his brother Robert and other crew members had to swim for several hours in the water before making it to shore.[31]  His brother lost his boat, the Victor.[32]

This cyclone left Douglas Pitt and his family destitute.  In an article entitled, “Fisherman's Appeal" in the Cairns Post noted;
Douglas Pitt thus appeals to the generosity of the people of Cairns and district:  "I want to ask the public of Cairns to do something for me.  I have lost all my property, and I got nothing.  I hope they will help me.  I have wife and family.  I have been in Cairns eight years, and am well known as a fisherman.  I was in the cyclone in March 1918.

We wish to state that we will be pleased to receive any amounts that are sent us, in aid of Pitt and his family.[33]

This appeal is remarkable given that the White Australia policy was in full swing in the north.  It demonstrates the respect held for Douglas Pitt and his family by the residents of Cairns and district and is probably unparalleled elsewhere in Queensland during this era.

Douglas Pitt became the first man to swim from Magnetic Island to Townsville on 5 November 1921.[34]   He was presented with a medal from the Mayor of Townsville in honour of this swim and also received a medal from the Queensland Government in appreciation of his saving people from drowning on three separate occasions during cyclonic conditions.  Arrangements were subsequently made to send him to England to swim the English Channel, but his father talked him out of it, saying the conditions were too cold.[35]

Douglas Pitt and his family left Yarrabah circa 1915 and moved to Green Island, along with the Da Silva family, where he had a lease for £3 a year.  He used to dive in the off season for beche-de-mer and dry and smoke them on the island.[36]   From about 1917 the Pitt family lived at Browns Bay, near Yarrabah, at a property called Koombal Park, as did his brother, Robert Pitt and his family.[37]  Douglas Pitt lived here until about 1922 when the family moved to Malay Town, the part of Cairns where most Indigenous and Mixed-Race people lived. Robert Pitt lived at Browns Bay until late 1921, when he went to Thursday Island.[38]  He later settled in Mackay.[39]  Douglas Pitt passed away on 29 December 1925, aged 48 from a blood clot lodged in the main artery leading from the heart.[40]

The Cairns Post carried an obituary for him on 2 January 1926, which again testified to his standing in the community.  In part, it read:

He was a well known identity in the north and latterly was a fisherman in Cairns, where he was known as the "King of Malay Town.”  He was an accomplished pearl diver, and knew the reef, and the hundred of islets, that dot its position, right along the north Queensland coast.  Douglas was also a very strong swimmer, and many of his feats of endurance in the water are local history.  He has performed splendid service during several cyclones, in which he has been involved, and many people owe their lives to his prowess as a swimmer and sailor.  The full story of his life, it is said, would make a very interesting narrative of an adventurous life in tropical seas.[41]

Douglas Pitt Jnr left behind a family of four girls and one boy, with another child, Len, to be adopted later by his widow, Myra Pitt. The family moved in about 1929 to Severin Street in Bungalow, Cairns.[42]   Douglas Pitt Jnr had bought a block of land there but died before the family could move.[43]

His children were the first "coloured" children to attend Parramatta State School.  Heather, Dulcie[44] and Sophie Pitt formed a singing trio, the Harmony Sisters, entertaining troops in Cairns during the war.  Sophie left when she married Harry Ware, but Heather and Dulcie continued with their brother Wally, travelling in a tent show owned by Rex St Louis on the Brisbane to New South Wales circuit.  In 1945 Dulcie branched out on her own under the stage name Georgia Lee and achieved international stardom.[45]   The eldest girl Maisie married Jack Reading, a White Australian cane cutter, and continued to live in Cairns, as did Douglas Pitt Jnr's sons, Arthur, a cane cutter, and Len, born in 1930, who was adopted, and was a timber mill worker.

After the death of her husband, Myra Pitt and her family moved to Severin Street.  The family struggled financially, with Myra Pitt receiving a small pension from the Government which she called "subsistence.”  The elder children worked to help ends meet.  They then moved to 172 Spence Street, where their house was built by Ned Pitt and an Aboriginal man, Danny Owens.[46]

It is interesting that several members of the Pitt family followed Douglas Pitt to the Cairns district.  This was to set the pattern for the later migrations where a father or son would come first and then send for the rest of the family when financial circumstances allowed.  His brother Robert and his nephew Ned, son of Edward Pitt, both followed him.[47]  Robert had a boat, Cleveland, at Browns Bay in 1920 and Ned Pitt and his family were living at Malay Town in the 1920s and 1930s.[48]  William Pitt also came to the Cairns district early in the century.  There is a reference to him and his brother Douglas holding a feast in 1907 at Yarrabah, where they lived.[49]  In 1920, after the death of his wife Mary, William Pitt married Annie Noble from Yarrabah.  It is not known where they resided during this period, but some time before World War II they moved to Mossman.[50]

Ned Pitt was married to Whopull Mye, their children being Annai and Gai.[51]  Whopull died at the Cairns District Hospital on 18 December 1924, aged only 24.[52]   Ned subsequently married Flossie Pitt (who was of Malayan heritage) and had a child, Adelaide.[53]   Ned was known as a snappy dresser.  He frequently wore beautiful suits, long-sleeve shirts over his vest, a tie with a diamond pin and a smart hat.  He had several gold teeth, as did his wife Flossie.[54] 

His sister Felicia and Freddy Ware, a Torres Strait Islander, both survived the 1934 Cape Tribulation cyclone.   Born in 1912, Freddy Ware married a woman from St Pauls Village, Moa Island and was a cane cutter and fisherman in the Cairns district. [55]   While not actually living in Malay Town, he and his brother Jack used to spend extended periods of time there, staying either with the Walters or Ned Pitt families when their luggers came south.[56]  Edward Pitt, Ned Pitt's father, and his wife Kamia Annai lived on the Bloomfield River,  but spent several months each year staying with their son and his family in Malay Town in the mid to late 1930s as well.[57]

The Pitts were encouraged to follow the example of their brother Douglas in leaving Torres Strait and coming south to live and work with him because of a directive by the Chief Protector of Aboriginals who on 3 November 1916 issued an advice that Pitt (Snr) and his sons were not permitted to reside on any Aboriginal reserve in Torres Strait or recruit Torres Strait Islander men.[58]  That they did not leave willingly is evidenced by repeated requests to the Protector from Ned Pitt to return to Torres Strait, requests that were not granted, as he was considered to be “an undesirable.[59]  However in 1919 William Pitt defied the ban and visited Murray Island, leaving his son there, while Edward Pitt also returned to Torres Strait in that year.[60]

Several Torres Strait Islanders came to Yarrabah shortly after the turn of the century.  John Murray, of Murray Island, who was in charge of the Girragah outstation, married Mary Pentecost at Yarrabah on 11 September 1908.  He was described as "one of Douglas Pitt's boys.”[61]   His real name was Kaume and he was born circa 1880.  By 1915 he had returned to Murray Island with his Yarrabah wife.[62]   He died on 28 February 1920.[63]  Another Torres Strait islander resident at Yarrabah was Moses Murray from Murray Island who is recorded as having married Bidie Riley at Yarrabah on 11 May 1911.[64]

Myquick arrived from Badu Island in 1907.  On 11 February 1908 he was appointed captain of the cutter Hephzibah and in April 1908 he was put in charge of the Senior Boys.[65]   Also known as Sammy Myquick, he married Tibbie  McAndrew on 28 November 1911 and their daughter Meria was born at Yarrabah circa 1914.[66]  He appears to have died before 1916.[67]

Wap or Daka was sent to Yarrabah in 1909.  He and his family were the only Torres Strait Islanders removed to Yarrabah on the order of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals, whereas all the others came voluntarily.[68]  Born circa 1874 of unknown origin, he arrived on Saibai as an adult and was traditionally adopted into a Saibai Islander family on account of his fishing skills.  He died at Yarrabah in 1911 and his  wife Gaiga (Jiga, Goeyga),  who was born at Saibai circa 1875  and son Jimmy Koraba returned to Saibai where she remarried.[69]  Jimmy Koraba apparently was a teacher at Yarrabah and later a policeman.[70]

There were other Torres Strait Islanders residing in Malay Town before World War II.  Charlie (Watea) Sailor and his family resided at Malay Town from before 1924 until his death in 1942.[71]  He and his wife were sent to Palm Island where his first child, Charlie Sailor Jnr, was born in 1920.  He came to Browns Bay after the Pitt family agreed to act as guarantor for him.[72]   It was here that Charlie Sailor Jnr died on 23 December 1921, aged one year old.[73]  Charlie Sailor's  real name was Tife Watea and he was known as the King of Malay Town in the 1930s, being a big man and having a decisive and commanding manner.[74]  He had four children by his wife Louisa, who was the sister of Douglas Pitt.   They were Noreena Sailor, Matilda  (Bunnie) Sailor, Ronnie Sailor and Freddie Sailor.  Charlie Sailor, whose father was a Pacific Islander from Lifu,  had married Louisa, also known as Nina or Umma, on Darnley Island in February 1916, against the wishes of her father, Douglas Pitt Snr.[75]  Louisa was a widow who had previously been married to Jacob Susan, there being five children from this marriage; George Jacobs, Doug Jacobs, Ben Jacobs, Abetta Jacobs and Cecilia Jacobs.[76]  All nine children lived in the Sailor household in Malay Town.  Sailor’s  wife's niece,  Felicia  (Phyllis) Watkin and her two children Brian and Fred, also lived with them after Felicia's marriage ended.[77]  When Donald Friend, the noted painter, came to Cairns from 1932 onwards, he used to stay with Charlie Sailor and his family in Malay Town.[78]

Charlie Sailor was a fisherman by profession and owner of his own boat.  He too was caught in the 1934 cyclone but survived.  He also survived the 1927 cyclone off Green Island after his trochus boat was destroyed and he and his crew managed to swim to safety. His grown up sons were all either cane cutters, sailors or fishermen.[79]  He received his exemption certificate under the Act in 1932 and died in August 1942, aged  52.[80]  Keith Johns remembers Charlie Sailor as “A real white man, that fellow,” meaning that he “spoke like us (Whites), was clean and had similar ideas.”[81]

The Guivarra family, who also settled in Malay Town, were related to the Pitt family.  Pedro Guivarra married Annie (Wazan) Pitt and lived on Thursday Island.  He was a pearler and owned his own lugger, the Francis, which perished with him on 5 March 1899 in the Bathurst Bay cyclone.  His three children, Peter, Francisco and Thomas grew up on Thursday Island and then worked on the Pitt luggers.  All three moved to Browns Bay near Yarrabah around 1918, to work with their uncles, Douglas Jnr and Robert Pitt.   While not under the Act, it appears that they found the increasing restrictions imposed on them in Torres Strait irksome and welcomed the move south.  Their mother Annie (Wazan), (a sister to Douglas Jnr. and Robert Pitt) also came to stay with them, but later returned to Thursday Island and lived there until her death.

It appears that, apart from Myra Pitt, the women did not permanently reside in Browns Bay, but came and went according to the season.  At various times Annie (Wazan) Pitt, Sanna Pitt, Mary Ann Savage, Kaffa Savage and Nazareth Savage all resided there.[82]  When not living with their menfolk the women resided either on Darnley or Thursday Islands.  This transient form of living demonstrates how mobile these families were.  The fishing opportunities afforded by the Browns Bay base were vital to the livelihood of the Pitt and Guivarra brothers, as well as Charlie Sailor.  Although living at Browns Bay, these families still considered Torres Strait as home.  It was only later, with the move to Malay Town, that these families established permanent homes outside the Islands.

Around 1922/23 the Guivarra, Sailor and Pitt families relocated to Malay Town.  The Pitt family moved to Malay Town so that their children could go to school and be educated and the Guivarra and Sailor families relocated there as well.[83]   Peter Guivarra and his family returned to Thursday Island, but Thomas and Francisco Guivarra remained in Cairns and raised families there.  Originally they worked as cane farmers and fished in the slack season, but later on they worked in the timber industry in the off season.[84]

Thomas Guivarra moved to James Street in Cairns in the late 1920s, where he built a house.  In the 1930s the family bought a property at Garadunga, north of Innisfail, cleared the virgin rainforest and grew sugar cane.[85]   Francisco Guivarra married Dorrie Hippie, of Mossman, in 1941 and shortly afterwards they moved out of Malay Town to James Street.[86]

Fred Walters was born in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on 28 July 1878, of a Papuan mother and a Lifu father.   He was traditionally adopted by Joseph Lui on Murray Island, who was also from Lifu, and married Nancy Brisbane from Darnley Island.  Their first child, Evelyn, was born on Darnley Island.  They then moved to St Pauls village on Moa Island where Lala, Fred Jnr, Mary, Amy and Sammy were born.  Their youngest child, Sonny, was born in Cooktown where they lived for 18 months.  Fred Walters and his family moved to Yarrabah circa 1933 where he was a boat builder for the mission as well as training men as divers working on the lugger Elam.  The family was given a mission house and the children went to school there.[87]   It is interesting to note that, while the Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and lived in segregated dormitories, the Walter's children faced no such restrictions and lived with their parents.[88]  A man who spoke his mind, he was warned by the Bishop of Carpentaria that he, "Would get into trouble on account of his tongue" and so he left to follow a new life free from the constraints of the Church. He never sought permission to leave and he never applied for exemption under Act![89]  He had three boats while living at St Pauls.  He did not want to fish for the St Pauls Mission, but wanted to fish for himself.  He gave one boat to a family at the Mission and sailed south in the remaining two boats, one of which was named the Dulcia.[90]

The family moved to Cairns in 1935 as Fred Walters wanted better educational opportunities for his children than were available in Yarrabah.  Initially the family stayed with a Singhalese fisherman, Thomas Da Silva and his Aboriginal wife Ida  who lived at the mouth of the Alligator Creek near Malay Town.[91]  Fred Walter attempted to buy or lease a property in Cairns, but was unable to because of the colour of his skin.  As his daughter recounts: 

When he approached the Real Estate people and the sales were ready to go through the owner or someone would put a stop to it because nobody sold homes to black people in those days.[92]

Eventually Fred Walters leased a boatshed in Malay Town from a Japanese resident of Malay Town, Setaro Ishimoto from 6 May 1936.[93]  Half the shed was used as a house and the other half for Walter's boats.  They resided there for ten years.[94]  These were the years of the Great Depression and Cairns was home to hundreds of swaggies, being located at the end of the railway line, and having a warm climate in winter.  Some of these men used to camp near Malay Town on the banks of the Alligator Creek, between the De Silva house and Malay Town.  Fred Walters used to help these men where he could, sharing food with them and allowing them to stay on his boats, during the cyclone season, until their luck improved.  One of the men was Ian Fairweather, a noted artist, who came to Malay Town in June 1939.  Over the years six people lived on the Walters family boats in this way.  These men, five Europeans and one Torres Strait Islander, all had their meals with the Walters’ family, frugal as these were.[95]

Besides being a reef fisherman, Fred Walters used to buy derelict boats, to rebuild, restore and then sell them.  Some of the boats restored this way were the Tillicum, Sea Boy and Lady Betty.[96]

Thomas Guivarra and his family moved out of Malay Town shortly after Douglas Pitt's family.  The Pitt family were the first Torres Strait Islanders to leave Malay Town, in the late 1920s, moving to the Cairns suburb of Bungalow.  The advantages included water and electricity, a luxury denied the residents of Malay Town.[97]  However the families that moved out retained close connections with Malay Town and visited frequently.

The Savage family lived in Malay Town before 1935.  The father, William (Allam), was a fisherman, who died on 21 June 1934 and his widow Lelei and children Lilly, Ivy, Ollie, William Jnr, David, Sam, Shirley, Joseph and Nunda moved to the suburb of Bungalow in an area known as the Pensioner's Reserve.  Here the family built a shed and lived in what can only be described as very basic conditions.[98]  It appears that the Savage family came to Cairns after Allam had an argument with his grandfather Douglas Pitt Snr, during which Allam threatened him with physical violence.  He was subsequently disowned by Douglas Pitt Snr and it is probable that he was then left with no alternative but seek a new life outside Torres Strait.[99]

Abiu Ware, his wife Periotha and children Harry and Bobby, moved to Malay Town from St Pauls, Moa Island in 1939.  Abiu was a brother to Jack and Fred Ware.  Jack and Fred were frequent visitors to Malay Town whenever their luggers came south, with Jack having a shack in the settlement.[100]

May Budgee came to Malay Town in the 1920s.  Born on Badu Island, she married and settled on Thursday Island with her husband, who was of Malay or Singhalese origin, and children Kathleen and May.  She left her husband and came to Cairns to find work.  Her two children came south with her, Kathleen settling in Ingham and May in the Burdekin.[101]  In Malay Town, May Budgee lived with Demos Demetriades.  In 1929 her daughter Kathleen and grandson Ernest Addo came from Ingham to live with them.  Both May Budgee and Demos Demetriades perished in the 1934 cyclone.[102]  Ernest Addo was twelve when he arrived in Malay Town.  His paternal grandfather was indentured from the Solomon Islands in 1901.[103]

Most of  the families were related by marriage and kinship ties.[104]  Charlie Sailor's wife, Louisa (a daughter of Douglas Pitt Snr and sister to Douglas Pitt Jnr), was previously married to Jacob Susan.  Sophie Pitt married Harry Ware.  The Ware family were of Pacific Island heritage and previously lived on the Pacific Islander reserve at St Pauls Mission, Moa Island in Torres Strait.  The Guivarra family was descended from Annie Pitt, also known as Wazan (sister to Douglas Pitt Jnr ), who married Pedro Guivarra.[105]  The Savage family was descended from Mary Ann Savage, (eldest daughter of Douglas Pitt Snr) and Tahega Afugia Toa (Sam) Savage.[106]  All of  the families had Pacific Islander ancestry and had come to Cairns via Darnley Island, Moa Island (St. Pauls village) or Murray Island in Torres Strait.  The Pitts, of Jamaican and Pacific Islander heritage, first lived on Murray and then Darnley.  The Guivarra family was descended from the Pitts, as was the Savage family. The Walters family was also related to the Pitt family,  Fred Walters wife, Nancy, being a sister of Douglas Pitt Jnr's first wife Mary.[107]   Evelyn Walters married Doug Jacobs.[108]

It can thus be seen just how extensive these family and kinship ties were.  They ensured a sense of community, fostering a spirit of mutual self reliance and support, within what would have been an alien and intimidating environment.  This mutual support helped these families establish themselves on the mainland, survive and eventually prosper.

As most of the Torres Strait Islanders living in the Cairns district before the war were of Pacific Islander ancestry, it may be legitimately asked when does a Pacific Islander become a Torres Strait Islander?[109]  I have included all those families who claim Torres Strait Islander heritage and are recognised as such by the general indigenous community in Cairns.   Pacific Islanders came to Torres Strait from the 1860s onwards to work in the beche-de-mer and pearlshelling industries, and from 1871 as missionaries and teachers.  They predominantly settled in the eastern islands and due to their command of English, their propensity for large families and their ability to earn superior wages and pay larger bride prices, had become a dominant force on Darnley and perhaps other eastern Islands by the 1890s.  This dominance was facilitated by a measles epidemic on Darnley Island in 1875 which reduced the indigenous population from several hundred to about 80.  As a consequence of this Pacific Islanders were relocated from Murray Island to Darnley Island in the early 1880s.  Many of these families owned boats and travelled south in search of pearl and trochus shell.  It was from these families that the first Torres Strait Islanders in Cairns came, led by Douglas Pitt and his extended family.  There were also Australian South Sea Islanders living in Malay Town, but these people were descended from the people indentured from the South Pacific to work the cane plantations around Cairns in the late 1880s and 1890s.

Malay Town was so named because of a few Malay men who wanted to establish a small community for themselves.  They chose the area where Bunda Street meets Kenny Street, on the banks of the winding saltwater Alligator Creek.[110] They lived here because "it was nearer to the sea than anywhere else that you could get."[111]  Malays were brought to Cairns in the 1880s to work on the sugar plantations.  As well as Malays, South Sea Islanders, Javanese and Indians also found work here.[112]  The area was a mangrove swamp and the huts were built wherever space could be found.[113] 

The homes in Malay Town were mostly built from the timber of the mangrove trees which were plentiful around the banks of the creek.[114]   Malay Town was originally known as Malay Camp and apparently had come into being by the 1880s.[115]

In 1904 an outbreak of bubonic plague occurred in Cairns.  At the time Malay Town was described as being on the banks of the Alligator Creek where, "a motley township has recently opened up, inhabited by Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Malays and Cingalese.”[116]  A gang of men worked on rat-destruction and fumigation and a systematic house-to-house inspection of the whole town was carried out. A closely-settled portion of Malay Town, where coloured aliens resided, having been certified as being incapable of cleansing and disinfection, was destroyed by fire.[117]

The settlement was destroyed because a Singhalese named Houssain died there of the plague.  Kerosene was liberally sprinkled and sixteen humpies were destroyed after the occupants had been allowed to remove all bedding, bedclothes, furniture and clothing.  The unlucky inhabitants either went to Chinatown or to their boats on the Alligator Creek.[118]  As the residents had nowhere else to live, they soon returned to the area and rebuilt their shacks.[119]

The young Malay inhabitants of Malay Town made a living cutting mangrove wood.  The older Malays had boats and lived in them.  They had rice mats to lie on, with a rice mat canopy over the top and a mast that would fold down.  They made a living by fishing in the inlet.[120]  The later residents made their living from catching prawns, with the nets they made themselves.  They built their own boats as well, their "flatties," flat bottom boats, being made out of whatever timber they could get, which then had the bottoms tarred to seal the joints.[121]  Ned Pitt had two boats, the Annai and the Empress.  George and Doug Jacobs had the Loyalty and Charlie Sailor owned the Eagle.[122]  Other residents worked in town.  Jan Binsair  worked as a cook at the Railway Hotel, while Amy Walters earned a living as a live-in housekeeper for a stockbroker and his family.[123]  Some of the residents used to do housekeeping duties for the Johns’ family when their mother was ill.[124]  Ernest Addo, from the age of twelve, worked on the boats owned by the Pitt, Sailor and Walter families, for five years from 1929.  It also appears that, in the 1930s, some residents supplemented their income through involvement in opium smuggling, which was sold to the Chinese.[125]

The population of Malay Town comprised an assortment of people from different cultures.  They were mainly Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, Jamaicans, South Sea Islanders and Filipinos.[126]  The nature and atmosphere of Malay Town would have changed radically as Torres Strait Islanders moved in and became numerically the dominant group from the mid 1920s.  However this does not appear to have caused much friction and they were probably welcomed into the community, because of the increased status that men such as Douglas Pitt would have brought, along with their potential to lift the economic well being of its residents.  A comparison of two photographs of Malay Town in 1922 and  circa 1932 shows a more settled community, with increased vegetation and additional dwellings which appeared to be more substantial and better maintained than previously.  The boats on Alligator Creek also appear to be newer and larger.  This change is especially pronounced when it is considered that the latter photograph was taken at the height of the Great Depression.[127]

The conditions in Malay Town resembled those of a fringe camp and malaria was rife.  The houses were built on stilts above a rotting mangrove swamp.  The non-white inhabitants had been forced to relocate here "by the whites who had despoiled them of their original homes upon the high ground nearby.”[128]   Davidson described Malay Town as a

Collection of huts among the mangroves on the banks of a salt-water estuary near the outskirts of the city.  A coloured population live here.  Not many Malays;  Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders mostly, with some that appear to be a mixture of all three.  They live chiefly by fishing and the little estuary where they moor their boats lies just below the line of huts.  It stinks at low tide, but looks very picturesque with its crazy little jetties built of stakes, its coil of mangrove, its moored boats, and the flatties dragged up on the mud.[129]

Palmer, writing of his time in Cairns in 1932, captures the essence and soul of Malay Town in his description of the community.
"A mile or so behind the port, where the saltwater creeks flowed into the estuary and dry gullies provided harbourage for empty tins and bottles, lay the scattered settlement of Luggertown.  It had its own smells, its own atmosphere, its own way of life.  In the shockle of huts, the tumbledown cottages half-hidden with greenery, lived the coloured folk who largely controlled the fishing, and their boats were anchored in muddy backwaters.  You were in a different world once you passed the pyramidal dumps behind the timbermills.  An easy-going, to-morrow-or-next-day world!  Girls with berry-dark eyes and full busts leaned over the paling fences, exchanging gossip with friends forty yards away, youngsters scrambled with prawning-tins among the mangroves, young men sang as they dried their nets along the banks.  At night there was a firefly glimmering of lights behind trellises, a thin fret of ukuleles on the warm, still air.

A parasite on the port whose wealth provided it with scanty nourishment, Luggertown had somehow kept itself from sinking into slumdom.  It had a character, an air of independence.  Its people were islanders or the children of islanders, and they clung to their ancient illusions of freedom, moving about their work with an indolent pride that never quite developed into swagger.  They had no need to assert themselves.  Their boats and homes were their own, their youngsters carried off most of the prizes at the State school on the town boundary: their catches brought in as much as those of white men.[130]"

Even though eking out a living was difficult and the conditions of the settlement resembled a squalid fringe camp,  some of the younger residents looked back fondly on their childhood experiences.[131]  They remember growing up in Malay Town surrounded by a warm and caring community.  Guivarra notes that the people "shared their cultures, their hopes and their food."[132]  As a child she remembered it as:
"A great time, especially when it was moonlight.  Some of us kids and adults too would gather under the one and only lamp post in front of the Jacob's house and play an Island game called water.  If we were allowed we could play Hide and Seek or Red Rover come over.  It was a happy time.[133]"

Malay Town was known for its dances and singing.  The dances were held in the big hall which was built by a Hindu man named Nam Singh as well as in a building owned by a Japanese man, Setaro Ishimoto.  Most Saturday nights the dancing was accompanied by lively music supplied by the Jacobs and Pitt families.  Benny Jacobs was on the turtle back mandolin, Doug Jacobs and Tom Guivarra on the steel guitar, Francis Guivarra on the banjo mandolin and Arthur Pitt on the Spanish guitar.[134]  Charlie Sailor was noted for his baritone voice.[135]

Often the dances would end in fighting, after too much alcohol had been consumed.  As Lala Nicol remarks, "It seems as if the black boys had a very low self esteem and to put on a brave face they would drink."[136]  Indeed the fighting was so frequent that it was not until she was much older that she realised that not all parties and dances ended in fights and that this was not a normal occurrence![137]  It appeared that while  white men would come to Malay Town to the dances, the fights were predominantly amongst the Malay Town residents and were not racial in nature.[138] 

A police station was set up just outside Malay Town in 1909 to oversee the shanty town.  The Inspector charged with establishing the station noted that, “as there are many Europeans residing in the vicinity of the locality commonly called “Malaytown,” they would no doubt be offended at being designated as residing in that quarter.  I would therefore suggest that the place be called “South Cairns.””    In 1923 the need for the continuation of the police station was justified, “owing to the large number of coloured people residing at South Cairns.”  The station continued until  1934.[139]

Many Torres Strait Islanders called into Cairns before the Second World war on the trochus and beche-de-mer boats.  The earliest account of the pearling fleet coming to Cairns is in 1893, when some 20 vessels from Thursday Island arrived off the port.[140]   Douglas Pitt Snr remarked that he and his sons frequently went from their base on Darnley Island as far south as Fitzroy Island off Cairns, in search of beche-de-mer, including a trip in 1905.  His son Edward Pitt went beche-de-mer fishing off Fitzroy Island in 1906.[141]    The Yarrabah Aboriginal News remarked in 1907 of a visit from a number of Darnley Island men aboard a lugger, and complained that the valuable beche-de-mer resource found in these waters should be harvested for the benefit of the Mission.[142]  Thomas Lowah, a Torres Strait Islander,  made his first trip to Cairns at the age of 14 in 1928 on the trochus shell boat the Placid.  Some of these stays were for extended periods.  In 1930 his crew spent a month in Cairns.[143]   Willie Thaiday,  from Darnley Island, made his first trip aboard a trochus vessel to Cairns in 1930.[144]  The pearling and trochus boats mainly came into Cairns to replenish their water and food supplies.  Most of the crew were Torres Strait Islanders and would visit Charlie Sailor's house.  An evening of Islander dancing would ensue.  Nancy Guivarra recalls that

The music and songs and the beating of the drums, mostly on kerosene tins created a very happy atmosphere.  Even the white people who lived in Bunda and Kenny streets would wander down to listen and watch.[145]

Some Islanders spent several years in Cairns working off the boats.  Sailor Tork, a native of Murray Island, stated in a court case in Cairns in December 1925 that he had been employed in the fishing industry out of Cairns for the past ten years.[146]

The children of Malay Town went to the Cairns Central State School.  In her first year at the school Lala Nicol was one of only five non-white children there.  She recalls that initially the "white kids were a little afraid of us;  some were afraid our colour would rub off on them and some thought we would eat them or something along those lines."[147]  Once she asked to be a fairy in the school play but was not allowed to because her eyes were not blue and her hair was not yellow.  Although she was friendly with her classmates, she was never invited to their homes.[148]

The question of  where Torres Strait Islander families in Cairns fitted into Queensland racial laws is an important one.  In 1897 Aborigines were brought under Government protection and control through the Aboriginals Restriction and Sale Of Opium Act.  Due to the influence of the Thursday Island Government Resident, John Douglas, a former Queensland Premier, Torres Strait Islanders were not included.  After his death in 1904, he was followed by an equally broad-minded  Government Resident, Hugh Milman and therefore the 1897 Act was not enforced against Torres Strait Islanders during his residency.  Beckett notes that at first Torres Strait Islanders were not brought under the control of the 1897 Act, as they "were not thought to require such protection and control because of their superior mentality and sophistication, and because a satisfactory system of administration was already in operation."[149]  The Government Resident on Thursday Island continued to administer the region and it was only in 1918 that a full-time Protector of the newly formed Aboriginals Department was posted to Thursday Island.[150]

The Act was strictly applied to Torres Strait Islanders in the 1920s and 1930s and their resentment led in part to the 1936 Maritime Strike.  Subsequently a separate Act for Torres Strait Islanders, Torres Strait Islanders Act, was enacted in 1939.  Through poor drafting or other unexplained reasons, this Act only applied to those Torres Strait Islanders living on reserves in Torres Strait.  Those who lived on the mainland were not subject to the provisions of the Act.  This became a major issue of contention for the Department of Native Affairs by the early 1960s, but by that time it was considered by the Queensland Government that it would not be appropriate for the Act to be redrafted to bring Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland under the provisions of the Act.[151]

The situation in relation to the 1897 Act for Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland before 1939 is less clear.  While Charlie Sailor appears to have been granted an exemption from the Act in 1932 in Cairns, it is evident from interviews with Torres Strait Islanders who were living in Cairns before World War II that the Act did not apply to them.  Some Torres Strait Islanders  were on the electoral role and voted in State elections.[152]  They were free to sit where they liked in the cinemas, unlike Aborigines who had to sit in the front.  They were also able to drink in hotels and bars and their favourite watering hole in Cairns was the old Exchange, Royal and National Hotels.[153]  It would appear that out of all Torres Strait Islanders resident in Cairns only Sailor Tork and Charlie Sailor were ever under the Act.[154]

Racism and discrimination did occur, but it appeared to be covert rather than overt.  Thus Fred Walters was unable to buy or rent property in the mid 1930s because of the colour of his skin, but other Torres Strait Islanders, such as Douglas Pitt and Tom Guivarra, had no such problems.  Of relevance to the question of race relations in Cairns during this period, was the influence and example of Doug Pitt  on wider community perceptions.  He was universally admired for his swimming feats and skills as a fisherman and this probably assisted in distinguishing the few Torres Strait Islanders in the area from the more numerous Aborigines, who suffered much more in terms of "being under the Act" and who experienced widespread and sustained overt discrimination and racism.  Kezilas, who grew up near Malay Town in the 1930s,  noted that “the Pitt family were very well respected” and that the “people in Malay Town were respected by the locals.”[155]

The relationship between Malay Town residents and the wider Cairns community provides us with an insight into race relations in a Queensland country town during the 1920s and 1930s.  Cairns was a geographically remote working class town, with many of the residents being of Irish extraction.  Conservative Labor Party parliamentarians have been returned to the electorate of Cairns since its inception in 1893.  This representation was founded on support from workers in the four main industries in the town;  sugar, timber mills, the wharves and the large railway workshops.  The White Australia Policy was supported by most of the residents, who were suspicious of Asians and those who were different.[156]

Many Cairns residents were not aware that Malay Town existed.  It was geographically separate from the town and the races in that day did not mix much.  Often the only  interaction was between been Malay Town residents and white fishermen, as Alligator Creek provided the safest mooring in Cairns and many white fishermen moored their craft here.[157]  Malay Town residents were collectively known as “Coloured People,” compared to Aborigines, who were called “Darkies” or, if mentioned in a derogatory context,  “Boongs.”  Coloured was a term used for all dark skinned people other than Aborigines and “Coloured People” were considered to be on a higher social scale than Aborigines.[158]  Kezilas remarked that “Islanders were clean compared to Aboriginals.”[159]

Kevin Doherty, who grew up in Gatton Street, about 2 kilometres from Malay Town, in the 1930s, recalls that there was a distinct separation of the races.  Malay Town was considered out of bounds and if he had gone there he would have got into trouble from his parents.  Despite living near the settlement, he never knew any of the residents.  The only time Whites came to the settlement was in the case of “young men who had had too much to drink and were looking for women.”   It was mainly the “lower class” of white who went there.[160]  However, Doherty makes the point that in those days “Coloured” people were accepted as long as they kept to themselves and didn’t cause trouble.[161] 

These recollections by Doherty are at odds with those made by Keith Johns, who grew up in Bunda Street, a block away from Malay Town, also in the 1930s.  He has fond memories of Malay Town and its residents.  He went there frequently, as many white children used to swim in the Alligator Creek with the Malay Town children, and would go fishing, crabbing and prawning with them as well as play cards.[162]  He recalls the dances and the island style dancing and feasting when the luggers were in town.  White men were welcome at the dances, with Charlie Sailor remarking, “Come on you fellows, dance with the coloured girls, they’re the same as the white girls.”[163]

It is difficult to reconcile the recollections of Johns and Doherty, as they are so different.  Although both men grew up near Malay Town in the 1930s, they came from different social backgrounds,[164] and went to different schools. Doherty went to a private Catholic school and Johns to the local state primary school.  Their different experiences indicate the dangers and difficulties inherent  in generalising  racial attitudes and race relations in Cairns during this period.  There was obviously a wide spectrum of attitudes and interrelationships between the Malay Town residents and their white neighbours, along a continuum from outright racism and hatred  to friendship and intermarriage.  The experiences of these two men reflect this diversity. 

Palmer, writing of race relations in this period made the observation that “There was little race feeling as the crews discussed fishing-grounds along the waterfront or danced with the coloured girls at the mixed gatherings ... The simplicities of the sea united men : the complexities of port stimulated feelings of class rather than of race.”[165]  Charlie Billingham, who grew up in Bunda Street across the road from Malay Town in the 1920s, agrees that class, not race, was the defining characteristic.  He regularly went to Malay Town to play and as he grew older attended the dances and the feasting.  He noted that race was not an issue and the children of the working class white families in the adjoining suburb frequently visited Malay Town and interacted with the families there.[166]  However children of middle class families, who lived further away from Malay Town,  rarely went near there.[167]

Location was important, even though Cairns did have a relatively egalitarian population, without the extreme differences of the big cities like Melbourne and Sydney, where the wealthy lived in mansions and the workers in humble cottages on tiny allotments.  Kezilas noted that

In Cairns it was the swamps that identified the wealthy from the battlers.  The battlers lived on the western side of the rail-line where it was still swamp, the more well to do on the ‘dry’ side of town.  The better class houses were on the original sand dunes ... that is, areas that were better drained and with fewer mosquitoes.[168]
Malay Town was to the west of the railway line, amongst the mangrove swamps, with working class suburbs adjacent to it.  As Doherty noted, children of middle class residents rarely went near there, fearing it, while the working class residents’ children  of the south Cairns and Bungalow suburbs did not share these concerns.

Little research appears to have been done in investigating the interrelationship between race and class in Australia.   Markey contends that support for the White Australia policy came from a strong middle class and small farmer base, with strong ruling class support, whereas within the labour movement there were always some prepared to fight against it.[169]  This contention concurs with the observations of my interviewees, who believed that working class people in Cairns were more accepting of Malay Town residents, compared to the middle and upper class citizens of Cairns.[170]

Torres Strait Islanders began moving out of Malay Town from the late 1920s in search of a better lifestyle.  This migration was tolerated and accepted by Cairns residents as long as “they did not live next door.”[171]  This would explain why most moved to the adjoining suburb of Bungalow, which was sparsely settled at that time.  It also explains why those Malay Town residents that did move out,  continued to frequently visit the settlement, maintaining close contact with those residents that remained.

Although of mixed descent, those early immigrants from Torres Strait who settled in Cairns all strongly identified themselves as Torres Strait Islanders and never lost their links with their culture and their language.[172]  The original family members from the Pacific Islands or the Philippines identified strongly with their home country or islands, but by the next generation a shared Torres Strait Islander consciousness and pride in this shared heritage was becoming evident.  Douglas Pitt Snr was inordinately proud of his Jamaican heritage.  However his children, having been born and raised in Torres Strait, developed allegiance and pride in their shared Jamaican, Pacific & Torres Strait heritage.  Ernest and Mary Addo considered the Pitt, Walters and Sailor families as Torres Strait Islanders and recall that that was how the families saw themselves.[173]  Vance Palmer, writing in 1935 about fishermen he encountered on the northern Great Barrier Reef, noted that:
"Most of these boys were Torres  Islanders who had settled in the mainland ports as fishermen.  Some, though of island extraction, had been born on the mainland.  There is growing up in the coloured quarters of our northern ports, particularly in Cairns, almost a separate race of these people - intelligent, finely-built, educated well in the State schools, different both from the Aborigines and their island fathers.  Almost invariably they take to the sea:  the casual life on the water suits them.[174]"

It is interesting that the early Pacific Islanders were seen by the authorities to be different to Torres Strait Islanders.  Although Douglas Pitt Snr arrived in Torres Strait in 1871, forty years later, in 1911, the teacher at Darnley Island, P. Guilletmot, in opposing an application by Pitt for an occupation licence on Thursday Island, referred to him as a "Jamaican Negro."[175]  The Chief Protector of Aboriginals, J. Bleakley, commented in 1918 that, "These half caste Negro Pitts have always been a source of trouble in Torres Straits."[176]

The assimilation of Pacific Islanders in Torres Strait was probably accelerated by what occurred on the wider Australian scene with the formal introduction of the White Australia Policy.  Pacific Islanders were particularly affected by the Pacific Island Labourers Acts  of 1901 and 1906, which required the deportation of all Pacific Islanders unless they met certain criteria.[177]  A South Sea Islander Reserve, under the aegis of the Anglican Church, was set up at Wag on Moa Island in 1907, but only a small number of Pacific Islanders in Torres Strait actually moved there.[178]

It is interesting to contrast the group of Australian South Sea Islanders in Malay Town with Torres Strait Islanders living there.  Although both from the South Pacific a generation before, the two groups maintained and fostered separate identities, with Torres Strait Islanders of Pacific Islander heritage considering themselves first and foremost Torres Strait Islanders rather than Pacific Islanders as the Australian South Sea Islanders resident in Malay Town appeared to do so.  There were class differences as well, with one group considering themselves superior because they came of their own free will and were fishermen, while the other group worked the sugar cane and had been indentured.  This division was not so evident in Malay Town as the Addo family had Pacific Islander relatives, the Namoks, in Torres Strait.[179]   Ernest Addo observed that while he worked for the Pitt families he did not socialise with them as the elder family members spoke in "language" and considered themselves  "superior.”  However he was friendly with the younger members of the family as well as with the children of the Walters family.[180]

Pacific Islanders who remained in Australia after March 1906 were not encompassed, in a legal sense, under either Commonwealth or State legislation relating to Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.[181]  Torres Strait Islanders who were descended from Filipino or Malay heritage, likewise did not come under these Acts.  It can be reasonably assumed that the same applied to the Pitt family, as very few Torres Strait Islanders were descended from a West Indian heritage. 

Attempts were made in Torres Strait to bring those Torres Strait Islanders of Pacific Islander heritage under greater departmental control.  This may have been one of the reasons for those Torres Strait Islanders of Pacific Islander heritage (the Walters, Jacobs, Savage and Ware families) moving to Cairns in the 1920s and 1930s to escape these restrictions.  Once in Cairns, they were safe, as it appeared the authorities were only interested in bringing Torres Strait Islanders resident in Torres Strait under the Act.  To all extent and purposes they enjoyed the status and benefits accorded to Pacific Islanders living in Cairns.

The only Torres Strait Islander in Cairns who appeared to have gained an exemption under the Act was Charlie Sailor, who received his exemption certificate in Cairns in 1932[182].  All other Torres Strait Islanders escaped the Act altogether.  It is interesting to note which families, after moving to Cairns, still maintained contact with Torres Strait.  The Guivarra family were able to do so because their Filipino heritage excluded them from the provisions of the Act.  The Jamaican heritage of the extended Pitt family likewise appears to have allowed them to move back and forth.  Charlie Sailor applied for exemption presumably because he had fishing interests in Torres Strait,  but other families such as the Walters, returned regularly to Torres Strait and seemed to be immune from the provisions of the Act and the authorities that administered it.[183] 

Proof that these men were not under the Act can be seen in  a court case involving Douglas Pitt Jnr, at Port Douglas, on 30 April 1924, where he was fined five pounds for illegally employing an Aboriginal under the Act![184]

Beckett observed that in the 1920s and 1930s Torres Strait Islanders resident in Torres Strait had their lives increasingly circumscribed under the Act.  They were considered "a race apart" who would gain nothing by participation in Australian life.[185]  Islanders were not allowed to live on Thursday Island prior to 1946 and Islander boat crew members had to sleep aboard while anchored there.  The Torres Strait Islands were made native reserves and were out of bounds to all but a few officials, clerics and other authorised persons.  Crews of trochus vessels that came south to North Queensland ports were not allowed to accept work on shore or make their home there.[186]  This would explain why all Torres Strait Islander residents living in Cairns before the War were of Pacific Island heritage. Many Pacific Islanders in Torres Strait were considered to be a bad influence.  In the annual report of the Queensland Chief Protector of Aboriginals for 1914 the Government Resident for Thursday Island, W. M. Lee-Bryce,  remarked that:

"Inability to deal with Pacific Islanders and men other than Torres Strait Islanders, who are married to native women and reside on the Islands, is a great source of trouble; they are subtle-minded, have a greater knowledge of the position than natives, and, I feel sure, are frequently the cause of little troubles which so easily unsettle the people and are difficult to remedy.  The fact of their exemption from rules which govern natives raises a feeling of inequality which is strongly resented by our own people.[187]"

It appears that from 1914 onwards, those Pacific Islanders in Torres Strait who were considered troublesome and seen as a difficult and disturbing element in the island communities by the authorities, were encouraged to leave  the reserves.  Some settled in European settlements, St Pauls Mission on Moa Island, or the  Catholic Mission on Hammond Island.[188]  If this was the case it would explain why those Torres Strait Islanders settling in Cairns were left alone by the authorities.  All the men who settled there could have been considered troublesome by the authorities as they were uniformly strong willed, independent and successful men.  They would have undoubtedly questioned and resisted the all pervading push into dependency that was being relentlessly implemented and enforced by the authorities on those Torres Strait Islanders still living in Torres Strait.

It appears that the Pitt family were especially unwelcome in Torres Strait.  In a telling memo from the Protector of Aborigines at Thursday Island, W. M. Lee-Bryce, to the Chief Protector in 1916, he stated that:

"For many years they (Pitt family) have been a great trouble.  They are not Aboriginals, but married Aboriginal women and settled among the island people.  The fact that they are not subject to Aboriginal regulations and come and go at will has a very serious effect by unsettling the Islanders who feel that the Pitt's are a class who participate in all educational and other benefits provided for the Aboriginal residents of the Islands without being subject to the same restrictions.  They are what may be termed a "flash lot" and not desirable residents.[189]"

This explains why Douglas Pitt Jnr did not return to Torres Strait to live and why several of his brothers and sisters joined him in Cairns.  His marriage to Myra would not have prevented him from leaving the district, as she would have unquestioningly followed him wherever he went. He, alone of all the early arrivals in the Cairns and Yarrabah district, stayed.  He settled in Cairns, and members of his family joined him, because they were banished from Torres Strait.[190]  They were exiles from their homeland, proud of their Torres Strait heritage and who returned whenever possible.  However over the years they began to associate Cairns as home and returned to Torres Strait less and less.  This trend was accelerated as their children grew up knowing Cairns as home and was cemented by the outbreak of World War II, when they were unable to return to Torres Strait for six long years.

The question can be asked why members of the Pitt family came south in the first instance, when so few other Torres Strait Islanders did.  While answers to this question this must necessarily be speculative, it is possible that members of the Pitt family did not feel fully at home in Torres Strait because of their Jamaican heritage.  They were also having ongoing problems with the authorities in Torres Strait, problems that did not follow them when they came south.[191]

While living in Cairns, Torres Strait Islanders  only crossed paths with the Protector if they travelled to Torres Strait or if they were involved with Aboriginal people, such as when Douglas Pitt married Myra.  Otherwise they were treated as equals under the law and allowed to live their lives free from the restrictions that would have been imposed on them had they remained in Torres Strait.  It is no wonder that their numbers in Cairns steadily grew and they visited Torres Strait less and less over time, eventually calling Cairns home.  This development was to be greatly accelerated during World War II when many Torres Strait Islanders were evacuated to Cairns in 1942.  Supported and assisted by relatives who had come here before 1939, many of these refugees stayed on after the cessation of hostilities in 1945, choosing to make a new life, free from “The Act,” down south.


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Morton, Clive.  (1978)                    Douglas Pitt - Elder and Younger.  Mulgrave Shire Historical Bulletin no 9

Morton, Clive.  (1981)                    The Shipwreck Figure was not a Ghost.  Northerner, vol 2 no 11, August-September 1981, p. 4-5

Mullins, Steve (1994)                     Torres Strait:  A History of Colonial Occupation and Culture Contact 1864-1897.  Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press

Nicol, Lala (1995)                           Transcript.  Interview With Lara Nicol.  Cairns, The Author.  Unpublished. (Copy held in the FNQ Collection, Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE Library)

Nicol, Lala (1997)                           Life Is What You Make It.  Cairns, The Author.  Unpublished. (Copy held in the FNQ Collection, Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE Library)

Palmer, Vance (1935)                     People of the Reef.  Walkabout, 1 March 1935, p. 23-26

Palmer, Vance (1935)                     Trochus and Beche-de-Mer Fishing.  Walkabout, 1 August 1935, p. 44-45 & 56

Palmer, Vance (1937)                     Legend For Sanderson.  Sydney, Angus & Robertson

Palmer, Vance (1952)                     Song-makers of the North.  Walkabout, 1 October 1952, p. 29-30

Queensland (1908)                         Annual Report of the Commissioner of Public Health.  Queensland Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 1

Queensland. (1908)                        Report of the Royal Commission appointed to the Working of the Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Industries....  Queensland Parliamentary Papers, Vol.  2.

Queensland (1915)                         Annual Report of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals for the Year 1914, Brisbane, Government Printer

Queensland. (1998)                        Regional Profile.  Far North Statistical Division.  Brisbane, Queensland Government Statistician's Office, 1998, p. 4

Singe, John (1989)                        The Sailor Priest.  Torres News, 13-19 October 1989, p. 24

Thaiday, Willie (1981)                     Under the Act, Townsville, N.Q. Black Publishing Co.

Thomson, Judy. (1989)                  Reaching Back:  Queensland Aboriginal People Recall Early Days at Yarrabah Mission.  Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press

Tierney, W. F.  (1963)                     Cairns At The Turn Of The Century.  Cairns Historical Society Bulletin No. 53, July 1963

Wilson, Gavin.  (1998)                    Escape Artists:  Modernists In The Tropics.  Cairns, Cairns Regional  Gallery

Appendix 1


Addo, Ernest and Mary (Nee Da Silva)          Cairns, 4 June 1998.  (Ernest born at Ingham, 8 March 1917, moved to Malay Town in 1929.  Mary, born in Cairns, 3 November 1925)

Billingham, Charlie                                       Cairns, 13 September 1998.  (Born in Cairns, 20 October 1917)

Doherty, Kevin                                            Cairns, 21 August 1998.  (Born in Cairns, 1926)

Guivarra, Dorrie (Nee Hippie)                        Cairns,  21 April 1998.  (Born at Mossman, 9 July 1922. Moved to Cairns in 1940)

Guivarra, Ricky                                            Cairns, 15 April 1998.  (Born in Cairns in 1958)

Johns, Keith                                                Cairns, 22 August 1998.  (Born in Cairns in 1927)

Kezilas, Peter                                              Cairns, 13 September 1998.  (Born in Cairns in 1925)

Lee, Charlene (Nee Matters)                          Cairns, 2 July 1998.  (Born 1949)

Mills, Abetta (Nee Jacobs)                           Cairns, 11 May 1998.  (Born Darnley Island in December 1910, came to Cairns circa 1930)

Nicol, Lala (Nee Walters)                              Cairns.  7 March 1998.  (Born at St Pauls village, Moa Island in 1928.  Arrived in Cairns in 1935)

Pitt, Dulcie                                                  Cairns.  22 June 1998.  (Born in Cairns in 1921)

Pitt, Len and Esme (Nee James)                   Cairns.  29 March 1998.  (Len born in Cairns on 15 June 1930, adopted son of Douglas Pitt Jnr)

Smith, Elsie (Nee Williams)                           Cairns.  4 and 28 February 1998.  (Born on Murray Island on 29 July 1923.  Arrived in Cairns in December 1942)

Tim, Louisa (Maudie)  (Nee Raymond)           Cairns.  4 May 1998.  (Born in Cairns in 1944)

[1]Regional Profile.  Far North Statistical Division.  Brisbane, Queensland Government Statistician's Office, April 1998, p. 4
[2] Yarrabah is an Aboriginal community south of Cairns.  It was established for the Anglican Church by Rev. John Brown Gribble on 17 June 1892. Many Aboriginal people were removed from all over Cape York and Fraser Island to this Mission
[3] Jean Devanny.  By Tropic Sea and Jungle:  Adventures in North Queensland.  Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1944, p. 36-56
[4]Frank  Davison.  Blue Coast Caravan.  Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1935, p. 213-215
[5] Harry Heseltine.  Vance Palmer.  Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 1970, p. 110-116.  Palmer’s  novel (Legend for Sanderson.  Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1937), was set in and around Port Cowrie, a fictionalised version of Cairns.  Malay Town was described in the novel as Luggertown.
[6] Devanny, p. 35
[7] They have often been referred to as Douglas Pitt the elder and Douglas Pitt the younger.  Douglas Pitt Jnr named a son after him, he being called Douglas Pitt III.
[8] Many of the people mentioned in this dissertation had either names that could and were spelt in different ways or else had multiple names.  Variant spellings arose because of illiteracy or the name being written in different ways depending who wrote it down.  This often occurred with Pacific Islanders when they came to Torres Strait or with Torres Strait Islanders who were born at a time when their language had yet to be codified.  Multiple names occurred because most people had a traditional name, a nick-name and a "proper" or English name
[9] Clive Morton.  Douglas Pitt - Elder and Younger.  Mulgrave Shire Historical Bulletin no 9, September 1978
[10] Steve Mullins.  Torres Strait:  A History of Colonial Occupation and Culture Contact 1864-1897.  Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press, 1994, p. 73-4
[11] Philip R. Frith.  Torch Light of Torres Strait.  196-, p. 91
[12] W. J. Gallogly.  Douglas Pitt - Father and Son.  Cummins and Campbell's Monthly  Magazine, June 1949, p. 17 and Devanny, p. 37 as well as information supplied by Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, June 1998
[13] Devanny, p. 37.  It is uncertain whether the younger Douglas Pitt was born on Murray or Darnley Island
[14] In addition to his wife he had a relationship with a Murray Island woman named Sue (Wazan).  Annie (Wazan) and Robert Pitt were born to her.  (Interview with Ricky Guivarra, 15 April 1998)
[15] John Douglas, Report of Mr. Douglas on Visit to Murray Island. Queensland Parliamentary Votes and Proceedings, 1885, p. 1083-4.  This move was facilitated because a measles epidemic had decimated the number of people living on Darnley Island
[16] Mullins, p. 158 and 170
[17] Morton, p. 1
[18] Devanny, p. 37
[19] Ibid, p. 37-38.  Aboriginal News 31 August 1909, p. 4
[20] Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998
[21] Devanny, p. 38.  Ellie Gaffney, Georgia Lee Story.  TSIMA Newsletter no 5, December 1984, p. 8.  Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998.  See also the Aboriginal News from June 1908 onwards when her various reports appear.  The Aboriginal News was a newspaper published by the Yarrabah Mission shortly after the turn of the century
[22] This fascinating correspondence was conducted between the Office of the Chief Protector in Cairns and Thursday Island and Lilly and Murray, a firm of solicitors in Cairns, acting on behalf of Arthur Hopkins, the father of Myra Pitt.  Solicitors acting on behalf of Indigenous clients with a Government Department in 1912 would have been extremely rare.  It appears that the Department was forced to allow the marriage because of her pregnancy and the intervention of her European father and his solicitors. The Protector would have become involved because Myra had an Aboriginal mother and lived at Yarrabah.  (Queensland State Archives.  Register of Inward Correspondence.  A/58996.  Dated 2/11/1911, 20/2/1912. 21/3/1912, 1/4/1912 and 10/4/1912)
[23] Judy Thomson.  Reaching Back:  Queensland Aboriginal People Recall Early Days at Yarrabah Mission.  Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1989, p. 59.  There is a photo of Douglas Pitt Jnr and his wife to be, Myra Kemble-Hopkins, in the band at Yarrabah Mission in 1908
[24] Gallogly, p. 28
[25] Dorothy Jones.  Trinity Phoenix:  A History of Cairns.  Cairns, Cairns Post, 1976, p. 350
[26] Aboriginal News  vol 3 no 16, 15 March 1908, p. 3
[27] Ernest R. Gribble.  Forty Years with the Aborigines.  Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1930, p. 113.  Aboriginal News, vol 3 no 25, 27 March 1909, p. 4
[28] Aboriginal News  vol 3 no 19, 15 June 1908, p. 3.  In April 1909 he was promoted to second Lieutenant (Aboriginal News  vol 5 no 25, 27 April 1909, p. 4)
[29] Aboriginal News, vol 5 no 25, 27 March 1909, p. 4.  In April 1909 Douglas Pitt, Myquick and Charlie Chambers were appointed "Officers for the maintenance of order around the Boys' Home, Work Shop and Married Peoples' Kitchen". (Aboriginal News  vol 5 no 25, 27 April 1909, p. 3)
[30] Edgar Davis, "How We Found The Nami", Aboriginal News, vol 3 no 25, March 1909, p. 6
[31] These epic feats are well documented in, Clive Morton,  "Cop This Lot Fred!",  Northerner, 3 November 1967;  Clive Morton,  "The Shipwreck Figure was not a Ghost",  Northerner, vol 2 no 11, August-September 1981, p. 4-5;  Jones, p. 440, 449 and 451.;  Devanny, p. 39-40; Galloghly and Morton (1978).  However Devanny has transposed the dates for her accounts of the 2 cyclones.  Her account of the 1918 cyclone is actually the 1920 one and vice versa
[32] Cairns Post 5 February 1920
[33] A Fisherman's Appeal. Cairns Post 5th February 1920
[34] Morton (1978), p. 2
[35] Ibid.
[36] Interview with Len Pitt, 29 March 1998.  Interview with Mary Addo, 4 June 1998
[37] Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998
[38] Informal leases 351, 474, 279 on R393, Browns Bay, Cairns (Information from the QSA lease registers, supplied by Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, written communication, June 1998).  Robert Pitt had trouble paying his lease.  On 11 April 1921 he wrote to the District Land Office in Cairns.
Dear Sir,
Your letter of the hand on 30 th March, about the rent of lease at Browns Bay, I am letting you know, I will pay the rent later on, as soon as I got the money.  Now I'm jest [sic] about broke, I have no money to pay my way, also I'm out of job, as soon as I get the money, I will be up there in your office and squire [sic] the account. 
By December 1921 Robert Pitt was back on Thursday Island and the lease was written off.  He is also recorded as living at Ayton, near the Bloomfield River, in January 1911
[39] Interview with Ricky Guivarra, Cairns, 15 April 1998
[40] The cause of Douglas Pitt's Death.  Cairns Post, 2 January 1926 and  Devanny, p. 40.  His wife Myra believed that he had been poisoned!  Devanny incorrectly writes that he passed away in January 1929.  However according to the Cairns City Council cemetery records he was buried in the Martyn Street Cemetery on 29 December 1925, aged 48.  The inscription on his tombstone is  “in memory of Douglas Pitt died 29 Dec 1925 aged 48.  Erected by his family, relatives and friends.”  However it is possible that his actual age at the time of his death may have been 46 years, as this is what was recorded on his "Application for a Grave" form
[41] Cairns Post 2 January 1926.  This was the only instance of an obituary for a Torres Strait Islander in the Cairns Post before World War II
[42] Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998
[43] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998 and Len Pitt, 29 March 1998
[44] Dulcie was named Rama Lyra on her birth certificate but was baptised as Dulcie. (Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998)
[45] Gaffney, p. 8-9
[46] Interview with Len Pitt, 29 March 1998
[47] Edward Pitt is recorded as having fished as far south as Cairns in 1906.  (Queensland Government.  Report of the Royal Commission appointed to the Working of the Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Industries....  Queensland Parliamentary Papers Vol 2 1908, p. 214)
[48] Morton (1978), p. 2;  Devanny, p. 44
[49] A Big Feast.  Aboriginal News.  Vol. 2 No. 13, 1 November 1907, p. 3
[50] Interview with Ricky Guivarra, 15 April 1998.  William Pitt is recorded as living in Cooktown in 1915, where he owned and worked the ketch "Princess.QSA A/58998
[51] Her real name was Lucy but she was usually known as Gaiba, later shortened to Gai.  She married Claude Mazza and lives in Innisfail.  Annai and her daughter Adelaide were drowned in the Cape Tribulation cyclone on 12 March 1934
[52] Cairns Post  19 December 1924, p. 4
[53] Adelaide Pitt married Raymond Blanco.  She was named after Adelaide Pitt, the daughter of Edward Pitt.  Both Annai and Adelaide perished on 12 March 1934 in the Cape Tribulation cyclone
[54] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998
[55] Devanny, p. 44 and 49
[56] Discussion with Lala Nicol, Cairns, 11 March 1998
[57] Ibid., p. 44.  Edward Pitt died on 10 September 1939 and is buried in the Cairns cemetery.  The inscription on his tombstone isin loving memory of my dear husband Edward Pitt died 10 th September 1939 aged 67 years.  Always remembered.  Erected by his loving wife and family
[58] Queensland State Archives.  Office of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals.  Register of Inward Correspondence.  Letters Received.  3 November 1916.  This advice was challenged by Douglas Pitt Snr, who lease had on Darnley Island had also been revoked, and he and his family were subsequently allowed to reside on Thursday Island.  See also QSA A/58999, 18 November 1916
[59] QSA A/59002, 7 April 1919,  A/59005, 15 June 1922, 6 July 1922, 30 July 1922, and A/59006, 24 February 1923, 17 May 1923 and 27 June 1923.  His boat, "Manu",  was forfeited by him and handed to the villagers at Poid, Moa Island
[60] QSA A/59002, 3 May 1919 and 4 July 1919
[61] Aboriginal News vol 3 no 22, 30 September 1908, p. 3
[62] John Done.  Wings Across The Sea.  Brisbane, Boolarong Publications, 1987, p. 3
[63] Correspondence with Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, June 1998
[64] St Alban's Anglican Church.  Yarrabah.  Marriage Register, 1910-1923
[65] Aboriginal News vol 2 no 7, 15 May 1907 and vol 3 no 17, 15 April 1908, p. 6
[66] St Alban's Anglican Church.  Yarrabah.  Marriage Register, 1910-1923
[67] Correspondence with Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, June 1998
[68] QSA HOM/B22.  Register of letters received 1909
[69] Discussion with Irene Hocke, his great grand daughter, Cairns 3 June 1998. St Alban's Anglican Church.  Yarrabah.  Burial Register, 1895-1952
[70] Correspondence with Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, June 1998
[71] He is mentioned in a court case in the Northern Herald of 30 December 1925, p. 7.  His wife Louisa took out informal lease 534, Cairns, site no 13, Alligator Creek, adjoining Harbour Board Rws. No 426, c.4 perches, which was transferred from a Japanese man, Peter Koike on 13 February 1924. (Information from the QSA lease registers, supplied by Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, written communication, June 1998).  He died in Cairns on 10 August 1942 and is buried in the Cairns cemetery.  His tombstone inscription reads;  “In loving memory of Charlie Sailor, called to rest 10-8-42 aged 50 years.  Thank my God upon every remembrance of you.  Erected by his loving wife and children.”  During World War II he became a cane cutter as there was a shortage of men in the sugar industry because of the War.  On a ladder, while carrying cane, he slipped and suffered a rupture, leading to his death.  (Interview with Keith Johns, 22 August 1998)
[72] Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998
[73] Cairns City Council.  Cemetery Graves Report, 11 September 1984.  (Copy held at the Cairns Historical Society)
[74] He was actually the second King of Malay Town as Douglas Pitt had previously also been known by that title
[75] Done, p. 10-12 and John Singe, The Sailor Priest, Torres News 13 - 19 October 1989, p. 24
[76] Jacob Susan changed his name to Jacobs as he did not like his surname, it being similar to the girl's name Susan!  Born in Rotumah, he was a pearl diver in Torres Strait who arrived in 1888 before passing away on Darnley Island in 1915.  In the Royal Commission his name was spelt as Jacob Susau, however he was known as Jacob Susan and his tombstone inscription on Darnley Island is spelt Susan.  (Interview with his daughter, Abetta Mills, Cairns, 11 May 1998 and Queensland Government.  Report of the Royal Commission appointed to the Working of the Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Industries....  Queensland Parliamentary Papers Vol 2 1908, p. 212-3)
[77] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998
[78] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998.  Gavin Wilson,  Escape Artists:  Modernists In The Tropics.  Cairns, Cairns Regional  Gallery, 1998, p. 20
[79] Ibid, p. 51-56.  Ewart-Carruthers, J.  Cyclone On Green Island.  North Australian Monthly vol 5 no 10, May 1959, p. 32
[80] Queensland.  Home Office.  Register of Letters Received. Certificates of Exemption.  Q.S.A. A/4737, 1932.  Cairns City Council cemetery Records
[81] Interview with Keith Johns, 22 August 1998
[82] I have found a photo circa 1919, (See appendix four, photo no. Thirteen) taken in a Cairn's studio, where all these people are pictured.  Maryanne Savage was Douglas Pitt Jnr's eldest sister.  Nazareth & Kaffa Savage were her children.  Also there at his time were her sons Henry & Eddie Savage.  Annie Pitt was the Guivarra's mother and Sanna Pitt was the wife of Robert Pitt.  Mary Ann Savage died in Cairns on 21 March 1945, aged 76 years
[83] Interview with Dulcie Pitt, 22 June 1998
[84] Interview with Dorrie Guivarra, 21 April 1998
[85] Interview with Ricky Guivarra, 15 April 1998
[86] Interview with Dorrie Guivarra, 21 April 1998
[87] Nicol, Lala.  Life Is What You Make It.  1997, p. 1.  Cairns Post, 27 December 1965, p. 3
[88] Nicol, Lala.  Life Is What You Make It.  1997, p. 1
[89] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 18 March 1998
[90] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 1 June 1998
[91] This was the same Da Silva family who moved with the Pitt family to Green Island circa 1915
[92] Nicol, p. 3
[93] informal lease 535, Cairns, site no 15, Alligator Creek, adjoining Harbour Board Rws. No 426, c.4 perches, which was registered on 6 May 1936. (Information from the QSA lease registers, supplied by Dr Anna Shnukal, University of Queensland, written communication, June 1998)
[94] Interview with Lala Nicol (Nee Walters), 7 March 1998
[95] Nicol (1997), p. 12.  The men included Charlie Corbett before World War II, Les and Arthur Strait during the war and a Torres Strait Islander from Saibai, Charlie Anau, who lived on one of the Walter's boats before moving in permanently with the  family.  (Discussion with Lala Nicol, 11 March 1998). Wilson, p. 33-34
[96]Discussion with Lala Nicol, 11 March 1998
[97] Ibid., p. 7
[98] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 11 March 1998.  Lelei (Lillian) Savage, died in Cairns on 30 June 1943, aged 47.  (Tombstone in the Cairns Cemetery)
[99] Interview with his great-niece, Charlene Lee, Cairns, 2 July 1998
[100] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 11 March 1998
[101] Interview with Ernest Addo, 6 June 1998.  Kathleen married Jack Addo and May married Henry Williams
[102] Ibid.
[103] Ibid.
[104] See the family genealogies in Appendix six
[105] See Appendix six, where I have provided brief family trees
[106] Interview with Ricky Guivarra, 15 April 1998
[107] Interview with Elsie Smith, 26 February 1998 and Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998
[108] Interview with Len Pitt, 29 March 1998
[109] Writing in 1935, Vance Palmer  remarked of  Torres Strait Islanders that, “One will have high cheek-bones and slanting eyes of the Malay, another a touch of the Papuan, another the soft features of Polynesia, still another the wide mouth and full lips of the mainland black.  Yet they are all Torres Strait Islanders, proud of their traditions as seaman, proud of their particular dots of territory.”  (Vance Palmer.  Trochus and Beche-de-Mer fishing.  Walkabout 1 August 1935, p. 44).
[110] Nancy Guivarra.  Malay Town As I Knew It In The '30s, 1996, p. 1.  Malay Town and Alligator Creek no longer exist.  The settlement was closed down after the war and the land subsequently reclaimed and the creek filled in.  During World War II the Americans diverted Alligator Creek into Smith’s Creek, utilising the dredge Trinity Bay.  Where Malay Town once was is now an industrial area.  Malay Town was also spelt as Malaytown in the early years of the century
[111] Lala Nicol.  Interview.  P. 1
[112] Ron Edwards.  Cairns:  A Historical Sketchbook.  Kuranda, Rams Skull Press, 1992, p. 37
[113] Ibid., p. 37
[114] Guivarra, p. 1.
[115] James Collinson.  Early Days of Cairns.  Brisbane, W.R. Smith, 1939, p. 81
[116] The Plague.  Cairns Post.  15 March 1904, p. 3
[117] Annual Report of the Commissioner of Public Health, 1908, p. 29
[118] The Plague.  Cairns Post 15 March 1904, p. 3
[119] Edwards, p. 37
[120] W.F. Tierney.  Cairns At The Turn Of The Century.  Cairns Historical Society Bulletin No. 53, July 1963, p. 2
[121] Ibid.
[122] Ibid, p. 3.  Doug Jacob came to the district circa 1927 (Correspondence with Anna Shnukal, 20 August 1998)
[123] Ibid.  Nicol (1997), p. 6
[124] Interview with Keith Johns, 22 August 1998
[125] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998 and discussion on 11 March 1998.  Individual names of the Malay Town residents involved have not been mentioned here at the request of Mrs. Nicol.  Len Pitt in an interview on 29 March 1998 confirmed these observations as did  Mary Addo, Keith Johns and others
[126] Nicol, (1997), p. 6
[127] Both photographs are reproduced in the Appendix four, photo numbers seven and eight
[128] Devanny, p. 44
[129]Davison, p. 213
[130] Vance Palmer.  Legend For Sanderson.  Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1937, p. 81.  In this novel Palmer refers to Malay Town as Luggertown
[131] Lala Nicol, after looking through photos of the settlement where she grew up, remarked to me that she never realised when she was living there just how ramshackle and decrepit the settlement actually was!  (Discussion with Lala Nicol, Cairns, 1 September 1998)
[132] Guivarra, p. 4
[133] Ibid.
[134] Ibid., p. 1-2
[135] Vance Palmer. Song-makers of the North. Walkabout, 1 October 1952, p. 29
[136] Nicol (1997), p. 15
[137] Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998
[138] Interview with Len Pitt, 29 March 1998
[139] Correspondence from Police Department files, 1909, 1923 and 1934, held at the Cairns Historical Society library, document D5876.
[140] Cairns Post 6 May 1893, p. 2
[141] Queensland Government.  Report of the Royal Commission appointed to the Working of the Pearl-Shell and Beche-de-Mer Industries....  Queensland Parliamentary Papers Vol 2 1908, p. 212 and 214
[142] Island Visitors.  Aboriginal News Vol 11 no 7, 15 May 1907, p. 3
[143] Lowah, p. 44 and 60.  With him were two other Torres Strait Islanders, Amoy Mallie from Thursday Island and a man from Moa named Ben
[144] Willie Thaiday.  Under the Act, Townsville, N.Q. Black Publishing Co., 1981, p. 10
[145] Guivarra, p. 4.  Keith Johns also recalls these events and how the ice cream man and his horse drawn cart would be hired for the duration, with free ice cream being provided to the children. (Interview with Keith Johns, 22 August 1998)
[146] A Cairns Charge:  Unlawfully employing an Aboriginal.  Story of a Fishing Trip.  Northern Herald 30 December 1925, p. 7 and Cairns Post 23 December 1925, p. 5
[147] Nicol (1997), p. 4
[148] Ibid., p. 6-7 and Interview with Lala Nicol, 7 March 1998
[149] Jeremy Beckett, Politics in the Torres Strait Islands, Canberra, 1963, p. 83
[150] Ibid.  However there was a part-time Protector on Thursday Island before 1918
[151] Hansard, 28 September 1960, p. 503.  The Minister for Health and Home Affairs, The Hon. H.W. Noble replied to a question on the status of Torres Strait Islanders as follows:  "The Torres Strait Islanders' Act of 1939 was enacted at the request of the islanders to have them removed from the provision of the Aboriginals Preservation and Protection Acts, and to give them a separate identity and a system of home rule on their Islands.  The provisions of this act as administrated are to the satisfaction of the Torres Strait Islanders... There is no restriction on any Islander leaving his home island to proceed south as is evidenced by the large number of Islanders now scattered through Queensland.  These people work without any Departmental supervision or direction and their mode of living is not controlled or interfered with.  They are therefore in no different position to the exempted Aboriginal"
[152] Although this fact was frequently mentioned by the people I interviewed,  a check of the Commonwealth voters roll for the District of Herbert, in the 1920s, failed to uncover the names of any of  Torres Strait Islanders known to be living in Cairns in during that period
[153] Interviews with Len Pitt, 29 March 1998,  Lala Nicol, 9 March 1998, Dorrie Guivarra, 21 April 1998 and Kevin Doherty, 21 August 1998
[154] Perusal of bank account ledgers for Cairns dated June 1925 and April 1928 reveal these two as the only Islander men with their pay under the control of the Protector of Aboriginals, Cairns.  (QSA AUD/W23 1.6.1925 and QSA AUD/W32 20.4.1928).  As mentioned previously, Charlie Sailor became exempt in 1932.  His wife and children were never under the Act. Sailor Tork appears to have been a single man and is not listed in the April 1928 bank ledgers.  Tork later appears in Government records on Palm Island in May 1947 under the names Sailor Toc and Sailor Toik (Tok).  (QSA POL/J32 batch 610M/61 and AUD/W158).  Tork is an enigma.  He  does not fit in with the established patterns of Torres Strait Islander migration to Cairns, and although apparently living in Cairns from 1915 to at least 1925, none of the people I interviewed had ever heard of him.  A search by the Community and Personal Histories Section, Department of Families, Youth and Community Care, of their files, failed to provide any additional information.
[155] Interview with Peter Kezilas, 13 September 1998
[156] Interview with Kevin Doherty, 21 August 1998
[157] Ibid.
[158] Ibid.
[159] Interview with Peter Kezilas, 13 September 1998
[160] Interview with Kevin Doherty, 21 August 1998
[161] Ibid.
[162] Interview with Keith Johns, 22 August 1998
[163] Ibid.
[164] Johns became a wharfie after the War while Doherty worked for the Commonwealth Department of Works in Papua New Guinea as a works manager.  Doherty’s parents owned the Pyramid Cordial Factory in Cairns and lived in what was a middle class part of Cairns.  The area around Malay Town was a working class suburb, the residents being in close proximity to the wharves, railway workshops, gas works and timber mills, where they worked as labourers and walked or cycled to work.  (Discussion with Kevin Doherty, 31 August 1998)
[165] “Palmer, 1937, p. 82
[166] Interview with Charlie Billingham, 13 September 1998.  Charlie’s father was a painter and then worked on the wharves
[167] Ibid.
[168] Quoted in John Curzon-Siggers, Out of the Swamp.  Cairns:  a Struggling Village in the Mangroves to a Thriving Tropical City.  Cairns, 1996, p. 27
[169] Discussed in, Mick Armstrong, “Aborigines:  Problems of Race and Class”, in Rick Kuhn and Tom O’Lincoln (eds.). Class and Class Conflict in Australia, Melbourne, 1996, p. 67
[170] I interviewed four white men who grew up in Cairns in the 1920s or 1930s.  Three considered themselves as working class and one as middle class.  All four subscribed to the idea that working class people were more accepting of Malay Town residents than their middle or upper class peers
[171] Interview with Kevin Doherty,   22 August 1998
[172] Interview with Dorrie Guivarra, 21 April 1998
[173] Interview with Ernest and Mary Addo, 4 June 1998
[174] Vance Palmer. People of the Reef. Walkabout, 1 March 1935, p. 25
[175] QSA.  A/58996, 1 November 1911
[176] QSA.  A/ 58997, 13 August 1914
[177] Patricia Mercer.  White Australia Defied:  Pacific Islander Settlement in North Queensland, Townsville, James Cook University, 1995, chapter 3
[178] Ibid., p. 89
[179] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 1 June 1998.  Apparently the division between the two groups were far more marked in towns such as Mossman
[180] Interview with Ernest Addo, 4 June 1998
[181] Mercer, p. 322.  However in 1934 the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act of 1897 was amended to bring under its aegis any person of Pacific Islander extraction who lived or associated with Aborigines (Mercer, p. 252)
[182] Queensland State Archives A/4737, Certificates of Exemption
[183] Discussion with Lala Nicol, 1 June 1998.
[184] Information from the Queensland Gazette provided by the Police Museum, Brisbane, June 1998.  The constable involved was W.H. Roberts
[185] Beckett, p. 87
[186] Ibid., p. 87
[187] Bleakley, J. W.  Annual Report of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals For The Year 1914, Brisbane, Government Printer, 1915, p. 12
[188] Beckett, p. 95
[189] QSA.  A/58999, 29 November 1916.  In the same memorandum Bryce stated that "they (The Pitt family) will endeavour by all means to again obtain a footing in the Straits and it will be useless for me to prevent their doing so if there is any likelihood of the influence they are sure to bring prevailing against me.  The Pitt's would use a success of this nature as a weapon against any administration here and their power would greatly impress the Aboriginals"
[190] For example, Ned Pitt made frequent attempts to return to Torres Strait.  In a letter dated 7 April 1919, he asked to be allowed to return with his family to Torres Strait. (QSA A/59002, Register of Inward Correspondence).  In 1922 his lugger Manu was taken from him and given to Poid Village (QSA A/59005, 6 July 1922).  On 24 February 1923 he asked for a permit from the Cairns Protector of Aboriginals to leave Cairns for Thursday Island and then on to Darnley Island.  On 17 May 1923 his application to return was refused by the Protector of Aboriginals at Thursday Island as he was considered an undesirable".  On 2 June 1923 Ned Pitt appealed to the Home Secretary to allow him to return to Torres Strait and on 27 June 1923 this appeal was turned down by the Home Secretary.  (QSA A/59006)
[191] For example, in a memorandum dated 1 November 1911 P. Guilletmot, the teacher on Darnley Island, opposed an application by Douglas Pitt, for an occupation licence.  (QSA A/58996).  On 7 April 1916 the Protector of Aboriginals at Thursday Island stated in a memorandum that "I do not consider the Pitts are desirable people to have dealings with Torres Strait Natives." (QSA A/58999).  On 3 November 1916 the Chief Protector decreed that Pitt and his sons, of Darnley Island, were not permitted to reside on any Aboriginal Reserve in Torres Strait or to recruit Island men.  (QSA A/58999).  This was followed by lengthy correspondence between the Department and solicitors acting for Douglas Pitt Snr, which eventually saw him allowed to reside on Thursday Island.