Library assistant Frances Gala, Joe Eggmolesse and George Seymour investigate South Sea Islander history at the Maryborough Library.
Library assistant Frances Gala, Joe Eggmolesse and George Seymour investigate South Sea Islander history at the Maryborough Library. Contributed

Archivist to cover history of South Sea Islanders in Qld

TO MARK the 150th anniversary of South Sea Islanders in Queensland, State Archivist Niles Elvery will speak at the Maryborough Library on August 29 from 9:30am to noon.

The seminar will cover the history of South Sea Islanders in Queensland and the resources available for study and research at the State Archives.

This month is the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first South Sea Islanders to Queensland, brought here as indentured labourers for the primary industries such as cotton and sugar, councillor George Seymour said.

In August 1863, the schooner Don Juan arrived in Brisbane with 67 men from the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu, brought to labour on a cotton plantation on the Logan River.

During the next 40 years about 62,000 people from more than 80 Pacific islands were brought to Australia as indentured labourers for the fledgling sugar industry.

Many were deceived into coming, others were kidnapped or 'blackbirded'.

Thousands of South Sea Islanders came through the Maryborough harbour, Cr Seymour said. 

"This was a form of slavery," he said.

"The treatment they received was often harsh and the mortality rate was appallingly high.

"This 150th anniversary is a significant milestone in Queensland's history.

"This grave injustice is a part of our history; we can recognise this now and move forward in a spirit of reconciliation with the descendants of those who came here against their will.

"Part of moving forward is understanding the past.

"We can recognise the great contribution that South Sea Islanders have made in many fields, including State of Origin coach Mal Meninga and writer Faith Bandler."

The talk by Mr Elvery at the Maryborough Library on Thursday, August 29, from 9:30am to noon, is free but bookings are essential and can be made by phoning 4190 5788 or speaking to a librarian. 



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