Aunty Shireen Malimoo

Aunty Shireen Malimoo, founding board member of Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson, at Sugar Fest 2019 - Recognition Day Festival

25 years ago the Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, officially recognised South Sea Islanders as a people. Too few of us know that slavery existed in this country, through the capture and forced labour of tens of thousands of pacific islanders.

Australian South Sea Islanders are the descendants of people taken from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and other pacific Islands, who were forced into Australia’s indentured labour scheme - also known as Blackbirding – in the 19th and 20th centuries.

With all the hallmarks of slavery, “blackbirded” South Pacific Islanders were then made to work primarily on sugar cane and cotton plantations, but also in maritime and pastoral industries throughout NSW and Queensland.

Many were kidnapped or tricked into this service, with some 15,000 dying as a part of the trade before being buried in unmarked graves.

But the cruelty didn’t end there. With the adoption of the White Australia Policy under the Pacific Island Labourers Act in 1901, more than 7,000 Pacific Islanders were then forcibly deported from the country.

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