A new book by a prominent Mount Isan looks back on the life of the stolen generation and growing up on Palm Island.
Pattie Lees is now an AM and the CEO of Injilinji Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation Aged Care but no one can say she has been handed life on a platter.
Ms Lees is a survivor of the Stolen Generation and was only 10-years-old when taken from her mother and sent to live on Palm Island.
Her new book A Question of Colour, written in partnership over a number of years with her son Adam, provides a first-hand account of Pattie's experiences as a ward of the state and how she overcame the experience to serve her country in the Navy and become delegate at the United Nations Commission into the rights of Indigenous People in Switzerland in 1996.
In a major coup, the foreword to the book is written by former prime minister Kevin Rudd who said Pattie's was a story we all should be more familiar with, calling the legacy of the stolen generation "a blemish on our nation".
Ms Lees was born in Cairns the daughter of an Irish father and Torres Strait Islander Aboriginal mother and after being removed on grounds of neglect, spent two years in an orphanage in Townsville, where she said authorities decided she was "too black" to assimilate.
Along with her brother, Ms Lees was sent to Palm Island in 1960, a few year after the infamous strikes of 1957 which were harshly put down by controversial island administrator ex-policeman Roy Bartlam, however Ms Lees says Bartlam was misunderstood.
"This is why my book is going to be very confronting, I was a protege of Roy Bartlam and in my book I my profess my love for him and his wife because in very difficult times they gave me a lot of support," Ms Lees said.
"I don't known what happened prior to my arrival but I certainly stand by him."
Pattie was sent to the girls dormitory on the island while her brother Michael was sent to the boys' one.
"Whitefellas were superior on the island, you had segregated areas which became the model for South African apartheid," she said.
"For someone used to assimilation on the mainland it was very hard to find out where you stood."
Named by James Cook in 1770, Palm Island had served as a detention centre for North Queenland Indigenous people since 1918 and had a frightening reputation as an "Aboriginal Alcatraz".
Pattie and Michael were greeted by older brother Terry, already on the island.
"It's a bad place," he warned them, "you shouldn't be here".
But here they were and Pattie's book recounts her survival following a decade of sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a Ward of the State.
The girls dormitory was cramped and hot and overcrowded and the girls looked to one observer like "a mob of monkeys in a cage".
Pattie said linen was in short supply and they dampened the sheets with water to escape the humidity.
As well as schoolwork they were forced into demanding chores with corporal punishment for any perceived waywardness and were not allowed to speak unless spoken to,
"We led silent lives," Pattie wrote.
It was tougher still in the boys' dormitory where violence was sometimes sexual, but the accumulated shame and denial has prevented full exposure, Pattie said.
Pattie's own internal strength helped her survive eight years of authoritarian rule on the island where her every move was strictly monitored, excepting only a brief spell at boarding school in Charters Towers, aged just 14.
"I was 10 when I went to Palm Island, I left when I was 18," she said.
Afterwards she found her alcoholic mother at Bloomfield River and then joined the Navy where she met her husband Terry Lees.
"I've been fortunate I've had the opportunity to have a good life," she said.
As well as support from the Bartlams, Pattie puts her survival on Palm Island down to a Franciscan priest she met on the island Fr Cassian Double.
In the book she said Father Double acted as a mother to her, helping her with women's business.
"He enabled the brokenness to heal, partially," she said.
Pattie said it was important for people to tell their stories.
"I had many years of silence because I didn't want other people to be discomforted by my words," she said,
"But now in the time of Black Lives Matter, my silence is no longer going to be bought because you don't feel comfortable.
"I lost my voice on Palm Island, but now I've got it back and no one can shut me up again. What happened to my family is still happening and these stories need to be told in order for Australia to have a sense of history and why reconciliation is so hard."
A Question of Colour: My Journey to Belonging" by Pattie Lees and Adam C Lees is available online at Magabala Books