Croker Island Exodus: screening on ABC1

Posted on 15 November 2012 by
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Croker Island Exodus (directed by Stephen McGregor) is a film depicting the 1942 journey of 95 Aboriginal children and their carers, from the Croker Island Mission (run by the Methodist Overseas Mission) to a Methodist farm at Otford, south of Sydney. The film is screening on ABC1 on Tuesday 20 November 2012 at 8.30pm.

The journey was a result of the Japanese bombing of Darwin, which began on 19 February 1942. By March, most of the white residents of Croker Island had been evacuated, but three missionaries – Margaret Somerville, Olive Peake and Jess March, and the Mission Superintendent, Mr Wale, remained on the island with its 96 children.

This group didn’t leave the Island until 7 April 1942. Croker Island, in the Arafura Sea, is located 200 kilometres off the Northern Territory coast. The group travelled by boat to Barclay Point on the mainland (where a four year old child tragically passed away), and then journeyed overland by canoe, truck, train and on foot – through Arnhem Land, then south via Alice Springs to Adelaide, on to Melbourne, and finally arriving in Sydney.

The evacuees returned to Croker Island in 1946, together with Margaret Somerville, who worked on Croker Island as a cottage mother until 1965. Somerville’s account of the trek, They crossed a continent was first published in 1961. The Somerville Cottage Homes in Darwin, established in 1967 by the Methodist Overseas Mission, were named after her.

The film Croker Island Exodus is screening on ABC1 on Tuesday 20 November 2012 at 8.30pm.

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