Trying times and frustrating moments

Published: 9th September 2020

By Kristy Gogolka

‘Trying times and frustrating moments’, this is a sentence out of Palm Island’s 2020 history book. Meet Palm Island’s new Mayor, Mislam Sam.

2020 has been a year like no other, where we saw communities shutdown and isolated due to COVID-19. In March, Queenslanders voted for new, returning, or unopposed mayors and councillors to lead their communities for the next four years. Mayor Mislam Sam, we welcome you into the LGAQ family.

Mayor Sam is married with children, proud member of his community and newly elected Mayor of Palm Island. Mayor Sam grew up mostly on Palm Island and has cultural links to Kalkadoon nation of Western Queensland and Erub Island of the Torres Straits. Like all Palm Islanders since establishment in 1918, we are united under our historical tribal name of Bwgcolman ‘ Many tribes – One people”.  When speaking with Mayor Sam, you can hear the pride he has for Palm Island in his voice and what it means to him to call it home. Mayor Sam said, “Palm Island is a magnetic place to live because it always draws you back.”

Mayor Sam’s mother had encouraged him to run in the local government election, but he did not want to take on the role. However, when tragedy struck in late 2019 when Mayor Sam lost his mother, he changed his mind. He campaigned on his own and with the community supporting him, he won.

2020 has been strange, scary and hard for all, and as a first-time mayor, Mayor Sam had a challenging first few months. “2020 has been an uncertain, trying and testing time for everyone, let alone a first-time mayor. It’s been hard for the community, but this is only a sentence out of the Palm Island history book,” said Mayor Sam.

During the first few months as a newly elected mayor, Mayor Sam had to navigate and understand how to manage COVID-19 in his community. Imagine getting a brand-new job and on the first day in office you are faced with a global pandemic and told to stay home, all businesses are closed, and all events are cancelled. The life of a mayor is different every day, but the life of a mayor in 2020 has been truly extraordinary. As a mayor, it is your responsibility to pivot, shift and carve the way for the community to follow. Showing strong leadership, smart decision-making skills and fairness will help the community through these difficult times.

When asked about the plan for Palm Island’s future for the next four years, Mayor Sam said “it is all about education, developing a scholarship foundation and investing in local jobs. We need to look at how Palm Island can be put on the map.” Mayor Sam wants to educate the next generation and ensure they have the skills and knowledge to help advance the community into being self-sufficient. Palm Island struggles with stable internet connection and phone services, and some simple things other Queenslanders take for granted. This is why Mayor Sam wants to help everyone; to eliminate these struggles for Palm Island. When speaking about getting back to basics, Mayor Sam “wants Palm Island to get back to the old days; do the little things and simple things to affect change. This is the only way we can improve locally. I want to help restore Palm Island to its former beauty of the old days.”

Mayor Sam loves Palm Island due to “no traffic lights.” However, he also said “it is where the family is. It is home and you know everyone. It comes back to the grandparents being sent here and that’s why I am still here today.” After speaking with Mayor Sam, you can’t help but think how lucky his community is to have someone in a position of change who can work towards improving the next generation and wanting them to have the best education, so they can one day do the same for their community.