Australian South Sea Islanders having a voice

Guest blogger: Kathy Shilvock – Librarian, Fraser Coast Libraries, Fraser Coast.

*Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that records may contain names and images of deceased people.

In 2017, Fraser Coast Libraries embarked on a program to record local stories and interviews as part of Heritage Week celebrations, 8 – 14 May. The result was a series or collection of digital stories capturing the experiences and life stories of residents from the Fraser Coast community.

Several of the stories feature the voices of Australian South Sea Islander citizens from the region. Fraser Coast Libraries invites you to listen to four of the digital stories captured in the Having a Voice collection.

Australian South Sea Islander John Ambertel, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries

Australian South Sea Islander John Ambertel, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries

John Ambertel, who described himself as an “ol’ cane cutter,” was 85 years of age at the time of his interview and thought to be one of the oldest Australian South Sea Islander residents at the time. In his story, John recalls his life and experiences growing up in Queensland prior to his retirement to the Fraser Coast. Like many people of his generation, John recounts stories of family life, working in different parts of Queensland, his interests and the influences on his life.

John passed away in June 2018, aged 87.

Australian South Sea Islander Dudley Byquar (right) and his brother Leon Johnson, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries

Australian South Sea Islander Dudley Byquar (right) and his brother Leon Johnson, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries

In Dudley Byquar’s interview, he recalls life as a child growing up along Plantation Island Road, Hervey Bay area, and the last of the original Kanaka men who were brought over as slaves who lived in the area. Dudley talks about life as one of 9 children, family life, school life in Pialba and cutting cane for a living around Nikenbah.

Australian South Sea Islander Donna Johnson and husband Leon, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Australian South Sea Islander Donna Johnson and husband Leon, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Local resident Donna (Dianne) Johnson born in Maryborough in 1950 played representative basketball for the state and was so proud to be part of the team. Donna was four years old when her father died. In her interview Donna describes her mother’s influence and a little of her Aboriginal and Australian South Sea Islander heritage.

Australian South Sea Islander Donna Johnson and husband Leon, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Australian South Sea Islander Donna Johnson and husband Leon, 2017. Photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Jan Williams talks about life growing up in Pialba in the early 1960s and her cultural heritage which was deeply connected to both Australian South Sea Islander and Butchulla heritage.

Joe Eggmolesse, photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Joe Eggmolesse, photo courtesy of Fraser Coast Libraries.

Joe Eggmolesse talks about his experience living with Hansen’s disease and the background story of Fantome Island.

Fantome Island – Australian South Sea Islander Joe Eggmolesse and the story of life after Hansen’s disease.

A Maryborough South Sea Islander Story – 150th anniversary, Maryborough, 1 – 10 November, 2017

Kathy Shilvock – Librarian, Fraser Coast Libraries, Fraser Coast