World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

South Sea Islander

South Sea Islanders in Australia

South Sea Islander labourers on a Queensland pineapple plantation, 1890s
Total population
(1% of Australia's population)
Regions with significant populations
Sydney · Brisbane · Gold Coast · Melbourne
Australian English · Carolinian · Tongan · Maori · Samoan · others
Related ethnic groups
Pacific Islanders

The Australian label South Sea Islanders refers to the Australian descendants of people from the more than 80 islands in the Western Pacific – including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) in Melanesia and the Loyalty Islands, Samoa, Kiribati, Rotuma and Tuvalu in Polynesia and Micronesia – who were recruited between the mid to late 19th century as labour in the sugarcane fields of Queensland. Some were kidnapped or "blackbirded" into long-term indentured service. At its height, the recruiting accounted for over half the adult male population of some islands.

These people were generally referred to as Kanakas, which means "man", although many Islander descendants now regard the term as pejorative and an insulting reminder of their ancestors' exploitation at the hands of white planters.

With time, owing to intermarriage, many Australian South Sea Islanders also claim a mixed ancestry, including Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders and immigrants from the South Pacific Islands.

Of some 55,000 to 62,500 Islanders recruited, around 10,000 remained in Australia in 1901.[1] The majority were repatriated by the Australian Government in the period between 1906-08 under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901,[2] a piece of legislation related to the White Australia Policy. Those exempted from repatriation, along with a number of others who escaped deportation, remained in Australia to form the basis of what is today Australia's largest non-indigenous black ethnic group.

The question of how many Islanders were "blackbirded" is unknown and remains controversial. The extent to which Islanders were recruited legally, persuaded, deceived, coerced or forced to leave their homes and travel to Queensland is difficult to evaluate and also controversial. Official documents and accounts from the period often conflict with the oral tradition passed down to the descendants of workers. Stories of blatantly violent kidnapping tend to relate to the first ten or so years of the trade.

In recent generations, facing many similar forms of discrimination in Australia as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian South Sea Islanders have been prominent figures in civil rights and politics. Faith Bandler, Evelyn Scott and Bonita Mabo (widow of Eddie Mabo) are prominent Indigenous activists who are also descendants of Pacific Island plantation workers. Another area Australian South Sea Islanders have excelled in is sport, especially the game of rugby league. Australian international representatives Mal Meninga, Sam Backo, and Gorden Tallis are all members of the Australian South Sea Islander community.


  • See also 1
  • Gallery 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

See also



  1. ^ Tracey Flanagan, Meredith Wilkie, and Susanna Iuliano. Australian South Sea Islanders: A century of race discrimination under Australian law, Australian Human Rights Commission.
  2. ^ "Documenting Democracy". Retrieved 2012-10-14. 

External links

  • Background and history of the South Sea Islanders at the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet website.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.