Perspectives:Asia partners the Griffith Asia Institute and the Australian Centre of Asia-Pacific Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art were pleased to host ‘Blackbirding, South Sea Islanders and Seasonal Workers: Historical Memory and Contemporary Justice across the Pacific’ on the 16 August 2013.
The Hon Ralph Regenvanu MP, Member for Port Vila and Minister for Lands, Geology and Mines, Government of Vanuatu and Mr Nic Maclellan, Journalist and Researcher in the Pacific Islands spoke at the event which was chaired by Mr Sean Dorney, Pacific Correspondent for Australia Network, ABC.
This year is the 150th anniversary of the colonial labour trade known as blackbirding, as industries like sugar and cotton were built by islanders recruited – or kidnapped – from across Melanesia. Between 1863 and 1904, more than 60,000 Melanesians were brought to work in fields and farms. After Federation, thousands of these Pacific workers were deported under the White Australia Policy, while some settled across Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Today the descendants of the indentured workers – the Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) – are organising to recall their history and claim their rights. In recent years, as Australian-born islanders seek to learn about their cultural heritage, they have been building links with family and communities in Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands.
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