Accessing Australian South Sea Islander heritage, just off the Bruce Highway…

Not far along the Bruce highway, to the north of Brisbane, the Queensland State Heritage Listed archaeological remains of Morayfield Plantation, after many years in private ownership, are being made available to the public once again as North Harbour Heritage Park Trail.

APE-024-01-0005 Raff's Sugar Plantation, Morayfield, Queensland, 1874.

APE-024-01-0005 Raff’s Sugar Plantation, Morayfield, Queensland, 1874.

Cane was grown here on a fertile river plain between 1867 and 1884, being harvested and processed into sugar, molasses and rum. George Raff’s Sugar and Rum business was housed in large timber buildings with brick foundations that were fitted out with state-of-the-art machinery. For river traffic, there was a generous wharf and, on land, a tramway which ran around the cane plantation. Situated on the south bank of the Caboolture river, workers inhabited a variety of buildings: brick cottages, a timber and tin bothy, a homestead and a school that doubled as a church on Sundays.

Good labour was difficult to find and Raff signed up South Sea Islanders to do the hard work in Morayfield Plantation’s fields. In 1867, he went down to the Brisbane docks and on board the ‘King Oscar’ he ‘signed agreements with fifty islanders, namely: ‐ Five from Mare, fourteen from Ambrin, and thirty‐one from Mii’[1] [2].

This diversity of South Sea Islander origins is an interesting aspect, as another article notes the presence of ‘65 Islanders speaking 5 different languages’, working and living on the plantation.3[3]

We hope that further research and archaeological excavation of this place will lead to a better understanding about the Australian South Sea Islander heritage at North Harbour Heritage Park Trail.

The Australian South Sea Islander community are invited to attend an information breakfast on:

Date:  Wednesday, 5 December 2018 

Time: 7:30am – 10:00am

RSVP: Michelle McKenna by 1 December 2018 on 0409 629 433

Information about this event can be found here: North Harbour ASSI Breakfast Invitation Dec 5th

[1] The Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser, Saturday 21 December 1867, page 3

[2] (Note: Ambrym spelled differently and Mii is possibly the island of Emae?)

[3] Brisbane Courier 1868 Cotton and Sugar, The Great Staples of Queensland, 6 October, p.2

Guest blogger:  Stephen Chaddock, Timeline Heritage