Boab Prison Tree Derby Western Australia

The Boab tree is a magnificent bulbous trunked tree that is found only in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Related to the Baobab Tree of Madagascar, an island off the coast of East Africa, the Boab grows in a variety of shapes and sizes, so that each specimen you see is different from all others.

One of the saddest aspects of humankind is that we humans can take a beautiful object and defile it, turning it into a place of cruelty and horror.

Such is the case with the Boab Prison Tree in Derby, which was replicated at the Boab Prison tree in Wyndham.

I visited the Derby Boab Prison Tree whilst touring the Kimberley with Adventure Wild, a Broome-based tour company which specialises in Kimberly tours.

Located about two hours north of Broome, and seven kilometres from Derby, the tree has a very wide trunk, which happens to be hollow.

When white settlers first drove their cattle into the Kimberley region in the late 1800s, they didn’t recognise Aboriginal occupancy, nor did they respect their land. With government permission, these early settlers just took the land for their own, despite it having cultural, social and religious significance for the indigenous people.

Not surprisingly, the people whose ancestors had lived in the region for tens of thousands of years, took umbridge at strange beasts invaded their land and drinking their precious water, so some cattle were speared. In retaliation, the perpetrators were arrested by police and charged with crimes for which they had no understanding.

As no prisons had been built in the early days of settlement the unfortunate people were arrested, manacled, and kept prisoner in the tree.

The Boab at Derby has a magnificent trunk with a girth of over 14 metres. To keep a human being in such conditions was simply barbaric. The tree is estimated to be at least 1500 years old.

It is a majestic senior citizen that has been used in a most unjust manner to incarcerate people who had no way of knowing at the time of their arrest that they were doing wrong, and the use of the Boab as a prison tree is a disgraceful example of the misuse of power during the early settlement of Western Australia.

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