Contribution to the ASSI 150th by Queensland State Archives

During 2013 Queensland State Archives has been privileged to participate in many commemorative events. As the Australian South Sea Islander Collection at the Archives provides documentary evidence of the government’s role in regulating the indentured labour system, it was an ideal opportunity to showcase this collection to the community and make links with many organisations and members of the ASSI community.

UNESCO Memory of the World nomination

Early in the year we were very excited by the announcement that UNESCO was to inscribe our ASSI collection into its Australian Memory of the World Register. In the lead-up to the150th anniversary, the 67 items from the Queensland State Archives’ collection were recognised as significantly contributing to Australia’s documentary heritage.

Cover of one of the registers in the Australian South Sea Islander Collection at the Queensland State Archives.

Extracts from the records formed a Memory Wall at the major ASSI exhibition held at State Library of Queensland. Several panels were enlarged to cover one wall of the gallery and it was pretty impressive to see the names of islanders covering the entire wall.

Two of our registers were also loaned to the Logan Art Gallery for their ASSI exhibition during July and August. It was great to be involved in this local exhibition and to make contact with members of the ASSI community.

One of the memory wall panels in "The Australian South Sea Islanders" exhibition hosted by the State Library of Queensland.

Queensland State Archive also collaborated with the Royal Historical Society of Queensland on an exhibition titled: Australian South Sea Islanders in Queensland. This exhibition will be on show at the Commissariat Stores in central Brisbane until August 2014 and will provide visitors with an insight into the records from the collection and also the story behind the Islanders coming to Queensland.

Queensland State Archives was able to get out into the community during the commemoration by having information stands at three events including This is Our Story community commemoration at Beaudesert on 24 August 2013. We hope that those who visited our stand will undertake further research and locate information about islanders who came to Queensland as indentured labourers. So many visitors to our booth found family names listed in the documents on display and were keen to understand more about how they could find further information.

Queensland State Archives stand at "This is Our Story" event at Beaudesert.

Another highlight was our participation in the State Reception hosted by the Premier of Queensland at Parliament House on 20 August. This reception was an official acknowledgement of the 150th anniversary and the contribution of the ASSI community to Queensland. Queensland State Archives was invited to display two original registers from the ASSI collection at this reception. What a privilege it was to witness the interest in these documents and talk to people about what the documents hold. Auntie Jeanette Kirk was one of the many attendees at the reception who took the opportunity to look at the registers on display. I could see how powerful it was for people to be able to see the names of their ancestors.

Knowing also that all this information is accessible online, I can see the immense value for members of the ASSI community, no matter where they live, to be able to access these documents in order make those all important family connections.

Auntie Jeanette Kirk viewing the registers at the State Reception in August 2013.

In all, it was a very busy but extremely worthwhile time. It was a pleasure to be involved in so many activities which marked this significant commemoration, and to witness the enthusiasm of the ASSI community in Queensland.

Niles Elvery - Manager Public Access, Queensland State Archives

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