Australian South Sea Islander

Stories from the South Sea Islander community of the Sunshine Coast.

Background

Large scale sugar cane production brought the need for labourers. Joseph Dixon employed the first 25 Islanders at Buderim in 1877, and soon others were working in Bli Bli.  The bulk of this labour force were Tanna Islanders from Vanuatu. Others were from the Loyalty Islands. With the enactment of the Commonwealth’s Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901, employment of Pacific Islanders ceased, and the deportation of most Pacific Islanders was ordered. It is unclear how many Pacific Islanders were removed from the Sunshine Coast and how many were allowed to stay. 

See the earliest record of South Sea Islander cutting cane in 1899 in the film ‘The Last Crush’ (footage from National Screen and Film Archives).

In 2019, Descendants of South Sea Islanders (DASSI) celebrated 25 years National Recognition of Australian South Sea Islanders.