Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day

South Sea Islander labourers gathered around a drum outside a hut in Innisfail, ca.1902. State Library of Queensland. Negative number: 128210

Saturday the 25th August 2012 is the Australian South Sea Islanders National Recognition Day. In 1994, the Commonwealth Government officially recognised the Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) as a distinct cultural group. This was followed by a formal Recognition Statement by the Queensland Government in September 2000, which also acknowledged the past injustices suffered by the ASSI, and the significant contributions they had made to the economic, cultural and social development of QLD.

Next year, the ASSI’s commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the first boatload of kanakas to work as labourers on the sugar cane and cotton farms. This dreadful trade, known as blackbirding, was carried out from the 1860’s up until the early 1900’s, when the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 and the Immigration Restriction Act were enacted to deport the ASSI in line with the White Australia Policy.

The Pacific Island Labourers Act and the Immigration Restriction Act can be found in the SLQ’s collection of Commonwealth Acts of Australia. Many government reports, photographs and books on the Australian South Sea Islanders can be found in the John Oxley Library.  Some photographs can be perused online through our OneSearch catalogue.

Ruth Gardiner – Distributed Collections Coordinator, State Library of Queensland