Who are the Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson?

Foulden Pltt Mackay Guadalcanal and Malaita men in Amherts and Thomson front plate

Foulden Pltt Mackay Guadalcanal and Malaita men in Amherts and Thomson front plate
(image provided by Prof. Clive Moore)

The Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson (ASSI-PJ) are the interim national body. We acknowledge and believe in the unique ways that Australians of South Sea Islander heritage contribute to the broader Australian society. This contribution reflects our South Sea Islander heritage and will be recognised by all Australians because we are all of One Spirit, One Mind, One Voice commonly seeking prosperity based on respect.

2013 marked a significant 150 year anniversary for Queensland since 50,000 South Sea Islanders (95% male) were bought to Australia on 62,000 indentured contracts to establish sugar, maritime and pastoral industries. Many of these men and women did not return to their Island homes and 15,000 (approx. 1/3) lost their lives to common disease to which they lacked immunity.

2014 marks twenty years since the 1994 Commonwealth recognition of our community as a distinct ethnic race with a kinship, through a long period of interracial marriage and heritage within Indigenous Australia however we still remain marginalised, disconnected and distressed as a forgotten people.

During the implementation of the White Australia Policy, a mass deportation of some 7,000 SSIs occurred, and 1,500 were allowed to remain under humanitarian circumstances. Several hundred had crossed the border into NSW in the 1890s and 1900s to escape the more severe conditions in Queensland, and several hundred escaped deportation by hiding in the Queensland bush. The total number remaining is thought to be more than 2,000.

For NSW, 2013 marks 166 years since the first South Sea Islanders were bought to Eden by entrepreneur Ben Boyd who had already used Aboriginal, Maori and Pacific Islands labourers in his whaling industry ventures. Worried about not having sufficient labour for his pastoral properties, in 1847 he decided to experiment with bringing in a Pacific Islanders workforce, without waiting for government permission. This was a human disaster.

Australia is home to some 300,000 – 400,000 migrant Pacific Islanders (PIs) and a further 40,000 – 50,000 surviving South Sea Islander (SSI) descendants of the Blackbirding era (1863-1908).

Lest we forget…

Goals of ASSI-PJ

The major roles and functions of ASSI.PJ are to represent the interests of the ASSI members in Australia in regards to supporting and promoting ASSI culture as well as economic, social and educational interests within the context of being one of the many contributing cultures of non-European origin in Australia.

Our long-term vision is to establish trust between our ASSI / Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) and Pacific Island (PI) communities of origin within and beyond Australia and through fostering open dialogue and sharing of information to act as a leadership organisation to ensure full and fair participation of ASSI people within the wider Australian community.

Our short term goals are to help create healing, family connection and capacity building amongst ASSI people to help remedy the dispossession, alienation, disadvantage and traumas caused to the many families who suffered during the Blackbirding era. This will be delivered through interactive workshops conducted in key populations in Australia and the Pacific urban centres where participants of ASSI origin will be encouraged to share history and knowledge with a view to creating a greater community awareness of the ASSI histories during and post the Blackbirding period.