South Pacific Islander and Australian Reflections on 'Blackbirding'

Away in The Land of the Wattle and Gum - Gus Clutterbuck (photo credit Grant Hancock)

South Pacific Islander and Australian Reflections on 'Blackbirding'



Kerry Packer Civic Gallery Exhibition

Exhibition dates: Monday 30 April - Friday 18 May

This exhibition will reflect on the 19th Century labour traffic (known as blackbirding) of South Pacific Islanders by colonial powers to cotton and sugar plantations in Australia, Fiji, Samoa, and even Peru.  An estimated 50,000 were ‘recruited’ to Queensland between 1863 and 1904 on 62,000 ‘contracts’, often involving deception or force. The death rate was about 30% (15,000). They were usually taken back to their islands at the end of 3 years. After Federation most of those remaining were deported under the ‘White Australia’ policy. A minority managed to remain, and their descendants today probably number 20,000 to 40,000. They are known as ‘Australian South Sea Islanders’ (ASSIs). 

The Exhibition includes digitally layered historical images and texts, 12 history banners, artefacts, photographs, song and videos, archival documents, ‘letters to ancestry’, and Parliamentary recognition of ASSIs. Also research, creative writing and artwork by Islander and non-Islander students. Many of the artworks and historical materials in this exhibition were first exhibited in Queensland (2013), then in Fiji (2014) and Vanuatu (2015). 

South pacific Islander and Australian Reflections on 'Blackbirding' Forum
Thursday 3 MAy 6.00pm - 7.30pm

This Forum will highlight the contribution of Island workers to the economy and infrastructure, the experience of Australian South Sea Islanders since, the experience of descendants of Australian Aboriginals taken back to the Islands as children or wives, and the situation of seasonal Island workers in Australia today.

Speakers include:

• Chief Richard David Fandanumata, Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs
• Abel David, former MP, Vanuatu Australian Connections Inc.
Both speakers represent the Chiefs on the issues of Blackbirding and Australian Aboriginal descendants in Vanuatu

• Emelda Davis, President, Australian South Sea Islanders - Port Jackson
Emelda will speak on the experience of the Australian South Sea Islander community in Australia today - the descendants of Island labourers who stayed in Australia after the end of the Blackbirding era.

• Professor Helen Lee, Anthropology, La Trobe University
Helen will speak on the experience of Pacific Island workers on the Seasonal Worker Programme.




Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, The Pacific Islands Council of South Australia and Helen Stacey with Dr David Bunton

This is a South Australia's History Festival event

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - and Building our Future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.