1) Moana Carcasses asks for an apology for blackbirdi
In an address to a group of descendants of South Sea Islanders, Vanuatu’s leader Moana Carcassus Kalosil said he wants an apology from Australia to recognise a “shameful” part of history.
Around 100 Australian South Sea Islanders are in Vanuatu this week to take part in commemorations for the 150th anniversary of the departure of the first blackbirding ship bound for Queensland.
Minister of Lands Ralph Reganvanu says in a forum to mark the commemorations, there was a feeling the Australian government should say sorry.
“(It’s) important for the Australian South Sea Islander community in Australia, in terms of recognition of their distinct history,” he said.
“The fact that when the deportation laws were passed in 1906, it is the only time in Australia’s history that parliament has passed laws specifically to get rid of a whole ethnic group out of the country.”
Mr Reganvanu says an apology would also extend to the countries from which the blackbirders came from.
During the infamous blackbird trade from 1863 to 1904, Pacific Islanders were forcibly taken to work on Australia’s sugar plantations, a practice known as ‘blackbirding’.
It’s estimated that more than 30,000 of those forced workers’ descendants are living in Australia.
Hundreds of people turned out for a parade to recognise the Australian South Sea Islanders.
Mr Reganvanu says the story of the blackbirded people is an important part of his country’s history.
“Thousands of Ni-Vanuatu went to Australia as part of that time. A number returned,” he said.
He says a number of historical legacies, established by returned blackbirded people, continue to be maintained today.
Mr Reganvanu also says the Prime Minister discussed the opportunities the commemoration is providing for Vanuatu now “in terms of re-linking and finding a way forward on the issue”.
The increasing number of South Sea Islanders going to Vanuatu to rediscover their connections is creating a new dynamic in the relationship between Port Vila and Canberra.
Mr Reganvanu says he hopes it will lead to a stronger relationship, including the growth of Australia’s modern-day seasonal worker scheme, which offers very different conditions.
By Len Garae
Chained for cane fields of Queensland
The Prime Ministershouted, “Shame on you, shame on you” to the historical black birders for the cruel treatment they gave the ancestors of the South Sea Islanders (SSIs)that they kidnapped from the islands of the present day six Provinces of Vanuatu between 1820s and 1900. The Prime Minister spoke out after watching a powerful drama by Wan Smol Bag of the cruelty that the black birders did to the recruits at Saralana yesterday. The Government joined a large number of South Sea Islanders and leaders of Vanuatu Christian Council and chiefs and families of the SSIs from Vanuatu in a parade from Fatumaru Bay to Saralana to commemorate 150 years of struggle by the descendants of the black birding era from Vanuatu. Chief David Richard Fandanumata must be breathing with a certain degree of relief now that the Government has publically shown its firm support for the plight of the SSIs and their cause after leading the parade. The Prime Minister who had to leave slightly earlier for health reasons encouraged the leaders of the parade to talk together and present their views to the Government to help the Government find the best way to resolve the historical crises “to say sorry” for what happened to the recruits and workers of the cane and cotton farms in Australia. Chief Fandanumata achieved a historic acknowledgement from the Aboriginal landowners of Australia last year, when he approached them in a custom ceremony to say sorry for all aspects of mistreatment of the indigenous landers in Queensland when the farm owners used islanders to either poison or kill them to allow land grabbing to take place to expand the farms. Amazingly, the present Aboriginal leaders were only too happy to accept the gesture saying they knew well in advance that it was going to happen but they did not know when it was going to take place and where it would come from. Undoubtedly the largest number of SSIs has taken part in the parade and for many of them, it was their first time in “our homeland” and they were both proud and emotional over the experience. Their leaders wish to thank the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs, the Government, Indigenous Association, National Christian Council, families in Port Vila and every individual that has helped them in one way or another to allow them to come this far in their demand. One of the SSI leaders appealed to the Vanuatu Government to assist by making presentations on behalf of them to the Australian Government. One of them said they hope for official Australian Government recognition to be allowed to travel between Australia and Vanuatu under special arrangement after all that their ancestors had suffered in the hands of the black birders and colonial Australian authorities to help build Australia’s economy. The SSIs echoed Chief Fandanumata’s Association’s demand for the descendants of the original cane and cotton recruits to be compensated for the atrocities perpetrated on their ancestors.
When the demand was first mentioned, the Australian High Commission replied with words to the effect that those atrocities were not committed by the Australian Government as it is known today. The blame was placed on the British Administrators who administered Australia at the time. One of the senior leaders of the SSIs suggested that one of the possibilities would be for Canberra to consider providing return trips for members of the SSI Community to travel to Vanuatu once or twice a year on free tickets. “We South Sea Islanders have not been provided with any special funding by Canberra yet”, she said.
3) President of SSI sheds tears for recognitio
President for the South Seas Islander Community in Australia, Imelda Davis, shed tears of joy for biggest support so far by the Government and people of Vanuatu towards the plight of her people in Australia
She is the President of the Wantok National Conference that comprises Twin Heads, Sydney, Mackay, Rockhamton, Brisbane, Bundaberg and Hobart.
She said her committee is responsible for this year’s wantok National Conference that is going to be held in Brisbane at the State Library from November 1-3. Last year’s conference that made a difference for Mary was the delegates from Vanuatu. “There were 40 plus families that came from our home lands and we invite you to attend the Wantok 2013 Conference in Brisbane”, she said. Some of the goals present a number of options for a governance structure for an Australian South Sea Islander body to address issues in relation to capacity building workshops that will take the findings of Wantok to the SSI regional communities across Australia. The SSI historical advisory team has worked tirelessly to produce historical facts for distribution to the communities as well as opportunities to reconnect with families and networking. The team has worked hard to seek funding from the Australian Government as well as philantropical organisations to fund the programme. “This support will see us deliver much needed capacity building workshops across Australia and the Pacific. In order to achieve our goals through self-determination requires working together but more importantly, to put our differences aside for the greater good of our generation. Once again it’s an honour and privilege to be apart of his historical event, thank you tumas”, she said.
4) funding for Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group.
2nd Jul 2013 11:22 AM
MEMBER for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey has welcomed State Government funding to upgrade the facilities of the Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group.
The $41,509.09 in funding has been awarded to the Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group under the latest round of the Jupiters Casino Community Benefit Fund.
“This is great news for the Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group as the funding will enable them to upgrade their facilities,” Mr Dempsey said.
“South Sea Islanders have contributed significantly both to the history of the Bundaberg area and to our town’s modern civic life.
“The Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group plays an important role in sharing this history and culture with locals and visitors.
“I am therefore very pleased to be able to announce this funding which will enable the Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group to continue their good work in our community.
“I congratulate President Matt Nagas and all the hard-working members of the group on this funding success and look forward to seeing the results.”
This year is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of blackbirding of South Sea Islanders to work in the Bundaberg sugar industry.
The Bundaberg and District South Sea Island Action Group is commemorating the anniversary with a series of events culminating in re-enactment of the event at the Bundaberg Multicultural Festival on August 18th.
For more information or to see a full-list of recipients please visit www.olgr.qld.gov.au and click on ‘grants’
Emelda Davis – President, Interim National Body for Australian South Sea Islanders.