Image: Large group of South Sea Islanders on a Queensland plantation. Courtesy of State Library of Queensland collections.

2013 marks 150 years since the first Pacific Islanders were brought to Queensland.

South Sea Islanders on a labour vessel

South Sea Islanders on a labour vessel. Courtesy State Library of Queensland collections.

Some came willingly, many were tricked, some were kidnapped (blackbirded). They worked in sugar, cotton and other primary industries (predominantly in Queensland) and were in many cases essentially slaves.

Most were returned to the islands in the early 20th century because of the White Australia policy, but some remained and their descendants are the Australian South Sea Islanders, who were recognised by the federal government in 1994.

11 Australian South Sea Islanders from around Queensland came together in June to produce their own stories about what the 150th anniversary means to them. The project was hosted by CitizenJ in partnership with the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland and Griffith University.

Share your views on these stories by filling in a five-minute survey and go into a draw for a chance to win a $100 gift voucher. Visit the QUT survey.

Sonia Minniecon (Townsville)

Sonia Minniecon pays tribute to the strong women of the Australian South Sea Islander community both past and present.

Randall Warkill (Mount Morgan)

Randall Warkill speaks about his paternal heritage and the need for more awareness of the Australian South Sea Islander community and history.

Joe Eggmolesse (Maryborough)

Joe Eggmolesse speaks of Pacific labour in the sugar industry and asks how long Australian South Sea Islanders will have to wait for an apology.

Matthew Nagas (Bundaberg)

Matthew Nagas recalls how, in an effort to adjust to their circumstances, his family didn’t talk about their history and why Australian South Sea Islanders now need to speak out.

Melanie Yasserie

Melanie Yasserie started researching her Australian South Sea Islander heritage after her children started asking questions she couldn’t answer.

Shennie Yasserie

Shennie Yasserie discovered her family’s slavery past when she found shackles in a cane shed.

Dennis Bobongie

Dennis Bobongie’s grandfather was tricked onto a boat and kidnapped to work in Queensland. His will to survive the harsh conditions led to cultural illiteracy except for food.

Auntie Jeanette Kirk (nee Eggmolesse)

Jeanette was told to give up on her dream of becoming a nurse because she is dark skinned. But she proved them wrong as did other members of her family who succeeded in their given endeavours.

Nasuven Enares

Nasuven Enares calls on the Australian Government to offer Australian South Sea Islanders the same benefits as Indigenous Australians, minus land rights.

Share your views on these stories by filling in a five-minute survey and go into a draw for a chance to win a $100 gift voucher. Visit the QUT survey.

Watch behind the scenes of the workshop here.

17 Comments Leave a comment
  • Natalie

    So very proud of our families who have an opportunity to speak out and voice the many, many stories of our people. Well done to all the families who participated in the project. This is only the beginning.


  • Tahlia Eggmolesse

    Hey Everyone that came from the Solomon Islanders and south sea Islanders and Torres Strait Islanders I am sorry to hear about your stories but they sound great and It has happen to my dad’s dad that came from south sea Islander or the Torres strait Islander but I don’t know which one but it happen to him n I just found out that it has been going on and one for a pretty long time now.

    • Tahlia Eggmolesse

      And I am a Solomon Islander and a south sea Islander and a Tores Strait Islander n I just hated when I found out what happen to my people and what they have done and how thw white people did. And i’m not white but I am so sorry what happen

  • Lincon Eggmolesse

    I feel the same dad never told me and saying ive never met you I don’t know if you are cosin or aunty I don’t know? oh and im am south sea islander and italion and spanish

  • rosena

    my mum’s dad was the eldest of the Nagas’s Walter and we never go to know any of his brothers or sisters. My mum was the only child as is still with us today some day will get to meet them i guess.

    • Michelle NAGAS

      Morning Sister Cousin Rosena . My name is Michelle Nagas I am Gordon & Dixie Nagas youngest daughter. Your Grandfather my fathers Brother I remember seeing pictures of him when I was a girl around 9 years old in Brisbane.

      • rosena

        i guess we will not get to know who many of that side and we did even get to see many photos of grandfather. we lost mum in March this year. trying to get a family nagas chat on facebook just to keep in touch with family we hae a browning Family chat page where Daniel has put a lot of our dad’s family history (Browning) side of the family with a lot of photos.

        Hope we get to meet one day.

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