A speech by the Member for Pumicestone, Rick Williams, demanding an apology to the descendants of 62,000 enslaved Pacific Islanders has inspired Queenslanders to petition Parliament to issue a formal apology. The practice of capturing islanders and transporting them to Queensland as slaves on cane farms and coastal building projects was known as “black birding”. Mr Williams told Parliament “Queensland was built on the back of the blood, sweat and tears of these islanders. I say that no-one deserves the atrocity endured by these people.” The petition is available online via TheGenerator.News
The South Sea Islanders’ history in Queensland is as horrific as the Stolen Generation’s and is largely intertwined with the Aboriginal people.
More than 60,000 Islanders predominantly from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands were kidnapped or “blackbirded” into coming to Australia during the 19th century.
Member for Pumicestone Rick Williams said they were put to work as “slaves” on cotton farms and cane fields.
“I grew up in the Mackay region and went to school with a lot of them,” Mr Williams said.
“My great grandmother would tell stories of how you could hear their chains rattling from kilometres away as they were brought into town,” he said.