Resilient and Vibrant Culture
Today’s Australian South Sea Islanders have a special place in Queensland’s cultural diversity and history. They are the descendants of South Sea Islanders brought to Queensland from 1863 to 1904 from 80 Melanesian islands to work the State’s cotton and sugar plantations. The 62,000 men, women and children were considered a cheap source of labour, with many being kidnapped, tricked or blackbirded. By 1908, many had been deported under the “White Australia” policy and those who remained suffered harsh treatment and discrimination. Today, Australian South Sea Islanders have a unique identity in Queensland, which is embedded in a rich heritage and vibrant culture.
To mark the contribution of Australian South Sea Islanders to Queensland for the past 150 years, State Library of Queensland has engaged with many interested people, in particular members of the Australian South Sea Islander Community to explore collection materials, to digitise content for world-wide access and to develop workshops, programs, discussions, tours and a wide range of exhibitions throughout the State this past year. This included Memories from a Forgotten People, a major collaborative project between the State Library of Queensland, Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art, recognising this important year in Queensland’s history. A hidden history with many difficult stories, this rich contribution to Queensland heritage will now be remembered for longevity through blogs, events and everyday recognition.
During 2013, State Library of Queensland, with input from many stake holders, put together a selection of digitised historic content that depicts the story of Melanesians brought to Queensland to work in the sugar and cotton plantations and is developing a more recent recollection of the Australian South Sea Islander Community today through contemporary stories and imagery.
Photographs from the John Oxley Library reveal the multiple layers of Australian South Sea Islanders’ experience during the 19th and early 20th centuries in Queensland. Captured through the lens of time, we see the cultural diversity and contribution to heritage made by Islanders who were brought to Queensland as indentured labourers from 1863 through 1904. Many of the indentured labourers were young boys in their early teens who were coerced to Queensland by dubious and unethical means, with use of trickery and kidnapping often reported. We see transformation of cultural identity reflected in physical changes of dress and in the societal changes of work and play. Many of the images depict very difficult and dangerous work conditions as well as the everyday of the boys, men, women and children. From work to marriage to family life, much is revealed, allowing us access to this fraught part of Queensland’s history some 150 years later and to fully realise the significant contribution made to our collective heritage.
The Written Truth
Heritage maps from the John Oxley Library show the world as it was depicted in the early 1860s through the early 1900s when South Sea Islanders arrived by vessel from nearby islands to work as indentured labourers in Queensland. Over time the maps change, the spelling of names, the addition of islands and more. Information about the practice of indentured labour can be realised today from the monographs written by missionaries at the time. These volatile missives extoled the virtues of missionary work in the Melanesian Islands while condemning the practice of indentured servitude in Queensland as “slave labour” to the world. Further historical truths are revealed with the passage of monumental government policies: the White Australia Act and the Pacific Islanders Labourers Act, both of 1901. A Royal Commission was formed in 1906 to provide an humane review about the ordered mandatory deportation of Islanders, following the 1901 acts that forbade Islanders to be employed in Queensland.
Australian South Sea Islanders Today
More than 1000 contemporary images donated by photographer Brian Rogers to the State Library of Queensland begins to document the people and places that make up the many Australian South Sea Islander communities along Queensland's coast.In 2000, an exhibition called Refined White was developed by the Australian Sugar Industry Museum in Mourilyan in north Queensland. During its development, a suite of contemporary black and white images was taken to complement a selection of historical images from the John Oxley Library. These images reflected the themes of Work, Family, Food, Religion, and Recreation. This collection of images is the first major contribution of Australian South Sea Islander life to the State Library’s collection since the early historical images dating back to 150 years ago.
Memories from A Forgotten People
Compelling conversations have been captured in emotional and powerful storytelling from the descendants of the first Australian South Sea Islanders at State Library of Queensland. who have come together to tell their stories about what the 150-year heritage anniversary means to them. Beginning in 1863, some 62,000 people were kidnapped or taken from South Sea Islands to work in the sugar and cotton industries in Queensland. By 1908, these same people faced compulsory “repatriation” to the islands under the White Australia Policy and the Pacific Island Labourers Act of 1901. Those remained often suffered harsh treatment and discrimination.
Plantation Voices is State Library’s portal to Australian South Sea Islander culture and history in Queensland. Over time State Library has cultivated resources and collections telling the story of Australian South Sea Islanders and celebrating their contributions to contemporary Queensland.
Captain Robert Towns (1794-1873) : a short biography of the man who first introduced the ’Kanakas’ to Queensland and gave his name to the City of Townsville / written by Pam Carver. Townsville, Qld. : Maritime Museum of Townsville, c1992. ISBN: 0646097733
The cruise of the ’Rosario’ amongst the New Hebrides and Santa Cruz Islands, exposing the recent atrocities connected with the kidnapping of natives in the South Seas / by Albert Hastings Markham. London : Sampson Low, Martson, Low and Searle, 1873
Kanaka : a history of Melanesian Mackay / Clive Moore 1951- . Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies Port Moresby, PNG : Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies and / University of Papua New Guinea Press : 1985. ISBN: 9980680008
Kanakas, kidnapping and slavery : myths from the nineteenth century labour trade and their relevance to Australian Melanesians. Clive Moore. 1981. Photocopy of article from ’Kabar Seberang: Sulating Maphilindo, No.8-9, 1981, p.78-92
Kanake : the Melanesian way / J.M. Tjibaou, Ph. Missotte ; photographs: M.Folco, C. Rives ; original French text translated by Christopher Plant, with the collaboration of the University of the South Papeete, Tahiti : Les editions du pacifique, c1978
The South Sea Islanders and the Queensland labour trade : a record of voyages and experiences in the western Pacific from 1875 to 1891 / William T. Wawn (William Twizell), 1837-1901. W Hay (William Delisle), b. 1851. London : Swan Sonnenschein & Co. : 1893
Queensland Canefields English of the late nineteenth century : (a record of interview with two of the last surviving Kanakas in North Queensland, 1964) T. E. Dutton (Thomas Edward), Canberra : Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University : 1980
Refined white : the story of how South Sea Islanders came to cut sugar cane in Queensland and made history refining the White Australia policy / Michael Berry Australian Sugar Industry Museum. Innisfail, Qld. : Australian Sugar Industry Museum : 2000
3 among many : a collection of life stories from Mackay’s Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander elders / compiled by Justin Doyle, Grahame Fatnowna, Teleai Ketchell Publication: Mackay, Qld : Info Pub, 2000
Australian South Sea Islanders : stories from the Sunshine Coast / Sarah Scragg; Queensland Museum.; Sunshine Coast (Qld. : Region). Council.; Floating Land (Sunshine Coast, Qld. : Event). Yungaburra, Qld. Sarah Scragg ; : 2012
Government Reports, Acts etc
Imperial and colonial acts relating to the Pacific Island labour trade, and regulations and instructions for the guidance of Government agents appointed under the Pacific Island labourers act of 1880. Queensland.; Great Britain. Brisbane : Acting Government Printer : 1884
Imperial and colonial acts relating to the recuiting, etc., of Pacific Island labourers, and regulations made there under; together with instructions for the guidance of government agents appointed to accompany vessels licensed to carry pacific Islanders, Brisbane : James C. Beal, Government Printer, 1892
Kanakas - deportation of : copy of correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland (23rd July to 3rd August 1906) and Departmental memorandum. Australia. Parliament. <Melbourne> : Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia : 1906
Pacific Island labourers : Statement showing the number of Islanders returned and the number of exemptions, etc Australia. Parliament Publication: <Melbourne> : Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1908
Report of the proceedings of H.M. Ship ’Rosario’ during her cruise among the South Sea Islands between 1st November 1871 and 12th February 1872.Markham, Albert Hastings, London : H.M.S.O., 1872 - Eyre & Spottiswoode
Report ... together with the minutes of proceedings, minutes of evidence taken before the Commission, and appendices. Queensland. Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Deportation and Repatriation of Pacific Islanders, and the Sufficiency of Labour for the Queensland Sugar Industry. R. A Ranking (Robert Archibald), 1843-1912. Brisbane : George Arthur Vaughan, Government Printer :1906
Sugar Industry Labour Royal Commission (Regarding the number of Pacific Islanders to be deported from Queensland at the end of 1906 etc). In Parliamentary papers, Queensland. 1906, Volume 2, pages 467-911
Not in vain. South Sea Evangelical Mission. Sydney : Marchant. What God hath wrought amongst South Sea Islanders being ... annual report of the South Sea Evangelical Mission formerly known as the Queensland Kanaka Mission, 1908-09
Pacific linguistics. Series D ; no. 29. Queensland Canefields English of the late nineteenth century : (a record of interview with two of the last surviving Kanakas in North Queensland, 1964) / by Tom Dutton. Canberra : Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1980
Queensland sugar industry, Bundaberg. S.l. : s.n. : 1896. Poster illustrating a series of scenes of the recruiting and labour of South Sea Islanders in the Queensland sugar industry surrounded by views of commercial buildings and sugar plantations in and around Bundaberg, Queensland. Includes a list of statistics about Bundaberg
A large number of photographs are held at State Library. Some of these are included in large personal collections of individuals, in the form of photograph albums or original photographs.
OH 39 Redland Shire Oral History. Redland (Qld.). Council. Abstract: A collection of 125 interviews regarding the history of the Redland shire. Box 9696. Item 107: Joyce May Krause - Transcript. Ms Joyce Krause's great grandfather, Hermann Holzapfel, was one of the first settlers on Mt Cotton in 1872, along with other German families who gravitated to the area. She speaks about evidence of Chinese settlement on the mountain and has documentation of Kanakas constructing the first church and school
27276 Sepia toned and mounted miscellaneous photographs 1890. Summary/Contents: Large collection of sepia toned and mounted photographs probable from an album. Images include Cairns-Kuranda railway, sugar industry, Indigenous people in Cairns, Chillagoe Caves, Brisbane suburbs, South Sea Islanders, fig trees at Noosa and Cairns. (One Photograph only). Boxes 15715 O/S and 15716 O/S
3299 Newton Barton Diary 1894-1895. A shipboard diary kept by able seaman Newton Barton on one of his voyages to the South Sea Islands aboard the brigantine "Rio Loge." The purpose of the voyage was to recruit South Sea Islanders to work on the Queensland canefields. Box 5317
10020 Conrad M. Kelsall and Alfred M. Stephens Correspondence 1894-1903 Kelsall, Conrad M. and Stephens, Alfred M. Twenty letters with various mentions of….”colonial views of the Boer War, the status of Kanakas and the ‘White Australia’ policy after Federation, involvement in the shooting of a local Malay, et al. The letters also contain wonderful contemporary social commentary.” Box 15354 O/S A2
OM75-117 Joseph Dixon Diary 1875-1928 Abstract: Diary of Joseph Dixon who was a sugar cane grower in the Mooloolah River district. Box 8948. The diary gives a daily account of the events on the sugar plantation, including the building and operation of the sugar mill. The diary covers the period November 1875 - June 1895. In his reminiscences, Joseph Dixon tells of his voyage on the 'Tornado' in 1864 to Australia, and time spent in Sydney. In 1869 he took up land on the Mooloolah River to grow sugar cane, and later at Buderim Mountain. He discusses the Aborigines at Mooloolah River and the Kanakas working the sugar plantation. Box 8948
6940 James Arthur Papers. Letters and documents of James Arthur, a Queenslander who worked as a recruiter of native labourers in the Pacific Islands. Arthur was murdered by disaffected islanders at Malayta in the Solomon Islands in 1900. Box 14302
M 1382 Cutting Books Abstract: Cutting books on miscellaneous topics. Newspaper cuttings book 1846 - 1943 on miscellaneous topics. Topics include Boer War, WWII, Aborigines, weather, kanakas, Freemasonry, Indooroopilly Bridge, Antarctic exploration, plus others. Box 8163
OM91-58 Central Queensland Clippings 1948-1954 Abstract: Three cutting books relating to Central Queensland. Volumes 2 and 3 also include the column by 'Historicus' from the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin dealing with Central Queensland history. Volume 2: delivery of Kanakas to pastoral stations. Volume 3 1950-1954; similar material to Vol. 2. Boxes 9246 O/S (item 1) and 9247 O/S (item 2)
OM64-02 Thomas Glassey Papers 1903-1909; 1930s. Founding leader of the Australian Labor Party – items include content from the 1901 Parliamentary Papers and a manifesto on the White Australia Policy. Box 8397
2967 Rawson Family Archive. Large album containing photographs of Rawson family properties in England and Queensland, views of Mackay area, kanakas and aborigines. The Rawson brothers Charles Collison Rawson, Edmund Rawson and Lancelot Rawson established the cattle station "The Hollow" on the Pioneer River at Mackay in 1866. The Rawsons were also involved in the sugar and coal industries. Box 4376
3361 Daphne Kingston Papers 1928- Abstract: Papers of Daphne Kingston. 3361/25: Ten Postcards depicting various subjects in Mackay, North Queensland; Japanese cutting tramway,family groups on bank of Pioneer River, Kanaka groups. 3361/42: Six Photographs of Habanna, North Queensland, 1991. Images include Pinnacle Rock, building said to be old shop built for Kanakas, original convent and Mt Jukes. Boxes 5573 - 5574
10144 Papua and New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the South Sea Islanders Cutting Book 1906-1944. A cutting book, compiled between 1906 and 1908, with newspaper clippings and photographs about the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the South Sea Islanders. The clippings and photographs cover topics such as: the island of Samarai; commercial activities of Burns, Philp and Co.; alcohol prohibition; Woodlark Island and the mining industry; coconut tree plantations; German presence in the area; missionaries; the repatriation of the South Sea Islanders. Box 15374 O/S A3
APU-5 Album of views of Brisbane and North Queensland ca. 1895 Mathewson & Co. Abstract: Album of scenes in Brisbane and North Queensland. 1 photo in red album “Cutting sugar cane Fairy Mead”. Box 11438 O/S A3
APO-22 Views of Townsville and Herbert River Photograph Album 1874-1882 Abstract: Album of views of Townsville and the Herbert River area. Images of ASSI some which have been reproduced in the copy prints (group images of boys in white clothing). Box 10924. O/S
APO-32 Queensland Views Photograph Album 1867-1908 Mobsby, Henry William. Department of Agriculture and Stock. Abstract: Album of photographs of views of Queensland. 3 or 4 photos in large album. Box 10891 O/S A3
6147 Trackson Family Photograph Albums 1879-1939. Abstract: Trackson family albums including images of their home in Brisbane, their motor vehicle which was the first in Brisbane, and their travels interstate and abroad. 1 image in large black album of ASSI’s outside large building at Bingera – also in copy prints. 2 images in small red album. Box 10768
7355 Brisbane and Mackay Photographic Collection 1870 - 1880 Boag & Mills. Abstract: 43 albumen prints and 19 cartes de visite. Quite a few – some of individual men (with names at bottom of image). Box 14290 O/S
APO-8 Album of North Queensland Views: ca. 1890 Abstract: Album of views of the north and north west Queensland. 2 photographs – one a large group and the other 2 men in traditional dress(one with very large earrings) – both in copy prints. Box 10767 O/S (A3)
APU-25 Hambledon Sugar Plantation Photograph Album ca. 1890. Abstract: Album of photographs of the Hambledon Sugar Plantation and Cairns Railway Line. Quite a few images (some in copy prints). Box 11450 O/S
6166 Appel Photograph Albums 1900 - 1916 Stark, William & Skyring, C.F. White's Hill Studio. Abstract: Three albums presented to G J Appel, Minister for Home Affairs 1909-1915. 3 images in large black album. Box 10854
4834 William Hamilton diaries publication. This collection consists of an unpublished manuscript entitled "The Diaries of William Hamilton 1882-83, to the New Hebrides, the Solomons and New Britain and New Ireland edited by W. Ross Johnston. The collection also consists of artwork for Ross Johnston's "Diaries of Blackbirder" which consists of a series of photographs and maps. Box 10891 O/S A3