Australia’s forgotten slave history

South Sea Islander indentured labourers clearing scrub at Farnborough in 1895 - National Library of Australia.

South Sea Islander indentured labourers clearing scrub at Farnborough in 1895 – National Library of Australia.

Australia is the third-largest global supplier of raw sugar, partially built on the hard labour of South Sea Islanders. What often goes unspoken, however, is the brutal way this labour was procured.

During the 1860s, about 60,000 South Sea Islanders were brought to Queensland against their will.  Most were kidnapped by a means called “blackbirding” and forced to work long, excruciating hours for little return.

This week, Australia’s Federal Parliament was presented with a motion that expresses regret over the treatment of the thousands of South Sea Islanders.

Deanna Hadid spoke with Emelda Davis, President of Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson (ASSI.PJ) for an insight into the history of South Sea Islanders in Australia, and whether this parliamentary motion is enough reparation for a group that faced more than a century of disadvantage.

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