Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Australian South Sea Islanders Celebrate 150th Anniversary
Colonial plantation workers’ descendants commemorate history

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 5, 2012) – The Australian South Sea Islanders Secretariat welcomes the news this week that Australia Post has agreed to a request from Queensland Multicultural Affairs Minister, Glen Elmes, to issue a pre-stamped envelope to mark the 150th anniversary in 2013 of the arrival of the first South Seas Islanders (ASSIs) in Australia.

"This is a significant historical anniversary for their Australian descendants," spokeswoman for the Secretariat, Ms. Nasuven Enares said. "Our people are encouraged by efforts by Government to promote greater public awareness of the role our families played in the development of Queensland. Ultimately regulated by contract, their labor contributed greatly to the development of the sugar and other pastoral industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales."

Ms. Enares added. "The public is still generally little aware of the real story of ASSIs. Our aim is to promote social inclusion through a combination of group work, community development and community education."

"Ethnically and culturally our community is distinct from Aboriginal people, from Torres Strait Islanders and Pacific immigrants arriving after 1904. Our people are Australian descendants of the 62,000 Pacific Islanders from those colonial times, known for their strength and reliability in hard work, recognized especially in the Tweed area, where some applied entrepreneurial skill in successful banana plantations, small cropping and fishing. Their contribution to these industries in turn created employment for all Australians.

"Australian South Sea Islander groups are encouraged to take an active part in the development of events and activities related to the 150th anniversary. Local ASSI organizations will be invited formally to be involved in the design of the pre-stamped envelope that will be distributed right across the country, providing national recognition for a century and a half of Australian South Sea Islander culture."

The Secretariat also looks forward to the Government’s announcement of other concrete initiatives to mark the 150th anniversary.

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