Reporters on the Job

South Pacific Isle: Asia editor Ben Arnoldy says the short flight from Townsville, on the northeast coast of Australia, to Palm Island reminded him of flights from Florida to parts of the Caribbean. Townsville has high-rises and a shiny beach-front promenade, while Palm Island feels decades behind, with corrugated tin housing and jobless people sitting in the town square.

"In many ways Palm Island felt like a tropical paradise beset with poverty," says Ben.

As the story notes, some Palm islanders were clearly concerned about some of the excesses of tourism development that can be found in the Caribbean: Would they be pushed off their land by developers? Would they see any of the money made by tour operators?

"One indication of the animosity toward outsiders," says Ben, "were the expletives directed toward myself and Andy Nelson [staff photographer] as we walked through town."

Unlike the Caribbean Islands, Palm is a part of Australia. However, Ben found that not many Australians on the mainland knew much about the place, or had even heard of it. Those who did were often aware of the difficult history and ongoing problems. One Sydney-sider remarked apologetically, "Not our finest hour."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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