Last night 1000 locals from the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah sat in the shade of an imposing mango tree — it’s known as the “watery” tree, thanks to its juicy fruit — to watch the debut performance of Opera Australia’s latest production Yarrabah! The Musical.
An hour’s drive from Cairns, Yarrabah has had a fractured existence. It was formed in 1892, when the local indigenous people were convinced to join a mission established by priest John Gribble. Over the following decades, half-caste Aboriginal children from different clans of Queensland were taken from their families to live at Yarrabah in dormitories, where they worked without pay, and the girls were married off at 16.