SYDNEY IDEAS – discussion panel (see attached)

presented with the Macleay Museum, the Australian South Sea Islanders, Port Jackson (ASSI.PJ) and Australian Association for Pacific Studies (AAPS)

2013 marks 150 years since the first of 55,000 Pacific Islander labourer’s (known as Australian South Sea Islanders or ‘ASSI’) were brought to Australia between 1863-1901, partly by kidnapping and in slave-like conditions to develop the sugar cane, pastoral and

maritime industries. In 1901 the new Federal Parliament passed an Act to deport the entire community as part of the White Australian Policy, reducing their numbers from 10,000 to just over 1,000, one of the cruelest acts in Australian history. The Islander community was devastated but the few who were able to remain gradually built up again over generations.

Over the past 20 years numerous community members have been involved in “The call for recognition” – a community initiated movement seeking federal government recognition of this community as a disadvantaged ethnic identity within Australia. Diligent political lobbying by the descendants of these people begun by Faith Bandler AO in the 1970s, has created a momentum among state and federal government representatives for proper recognition and assistance of the Australian South Sea Islander community. They gained the support of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC, 1992) and in 1994 HEROC findings bought about 1994 Commonwealth recognition as a disadvantaged ethnic group. Despite this, little has changed over the last twenty years although ASSI’s suffer the same disadvantages as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and remain marginalised, facing the ongoing consequences of cultural kidnapping, identity, loss of family and severe lack of government services in education and well-being. We invite you to discuss this pertinent issue with a panel of representatives from current governments, historians and ASSI representatives to outline the present situation and plans that are in development for formal ongoing assistance to Australian South Sea Islander peoples.

The forum will be opened by ASSI.PJ patron Mrs Bonita Mabo AO. Mrs Bonita Mabo supported Eddie Mabo’s fight for native title to be recognised on Murray Island, but since his death in 1992 Mrs Bonita Mabo has been a leading voice in support of the rights of the South Sea Islanders in Australia.


• Emelda Davis (Moderator), inaugural President and founding member of the Australian South Sea Islanders (Port Jackson) Limited (ASSI.PJ), based in Sydney.

• The Hon. Alex Greenwich MP, Independent member for New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Sydney.

• Jeff McMullen, journalist, author and film-maker, and campaigner for improving health, education and human rights of Indigenous people.

• Shireen Mallamoo, manager in non-government services for the Aboriginal community including the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Media Association and the Aboriginal Medical Service in Townsville, and currently on the Justice Health Board.

• Professor Clive Moore, Pacific and Australian History and Head of the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland.

• Matt Nagas, third generation Australian Melanesian, historian and recent joint recipient of the Oxley Library Fellowship for the project proposal of ‘A Commemorative Pilgrimage of Significant Sites: The Australian and South Sea Islanders from Tweed Heads to Torres Strait’.

• Professor Gracelyn Smallwood AO, health worker and Indigenous advisor to the Vice-Chancellor at James Cook University.

6.00 to 7.30pm
Law School Foyer,
New Law School, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney

For more information to contact:  Emelda Davis – President, Interim National Body for Australian South Sea Islanders.

(Port Jackson) Ltd – branch

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