Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Malaytown research update

I did my research into Malaytown and Torres Strait Islander migration to Cairns before World War II in 1998, some 13 years ago. Since then new material has become known and existing materials, such as newspapers and cemetery records, are much easier to locate and access thanks to the Internet.

Here is a list of material that is now available online, much of which I did not have access to when I did my research and which throws additional light on Malaytown and its inhabitants.

The diaries of Donald Friend, vol 2, pp. 433, 437 -  444 . A beautiful firsthand account of his time in Malaytown in November 1946.

Radio National Hindsight program on Malaytown featuring myself and Malytown residents, produced by Michelle Rayner in 2003

Felicia Watkin undertook a PhD thesis in 2009, My Island Home: A study of identify across different generations of Torres Strait Islanders living outside the Torres Strait. While not a history of Malaytown, she interviewed residents and descendants of Malaytown as part of a study of identity across different generations of Torres Strait Islanders living outside the Torres Strait.

TROVE is a project digitising Australian newspapers. The full text articles are available online, making life so much easier than the old days of laboriously looking at each page on microfilm. A number of Cairns Newspapers from 1884-1954 are indexed there.

When doing my research in 1998 I found relatively few articles in newspapers, as it was just too time consuming; a bit like looking for a needle in a very large haystack! However, searching on the word Malaytown in Cairns newspapers in Trove  brings up 98 articles with a treasure trove of information, listed in date order with the earliest articles first.

Searching on the phrase “Malay town” in Cairns newspapers in Trove brings up 210 articles

There are also a number of articles in the Townsville Daily Bulletin

Another interesting article is:

When I did my research I had to go to the cemetery and look at all the tombstones as well as manually going thorugh the records of one of Cairns’ largest funeral businesses. Now the Cairns Cemetery records are available online. So much easier and quicker.