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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Early History »

Queensland's Islander trade

Clive Moore.

Clive Moore explores the contradictions of the recruitment of South Sea Islanders for work in Queensland - and their later expulsion.



Date Added:

15 February 2006


Clive Moore interviewed by Andrew Jakubowicz for MMA


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

3.6 MB


2 min 59 s


First of the people we call South Sea Islanders actually come into New South Wales in the 1840s. There's a small amount of pastoral recruiting…

It's 1863 and then Queensland – new colony, governor appointed, a government – and they're trying to look for agricultural staples and to establish Queensland as a pastoral and as an agricultural colony. The problem is labour…

The capitalists of the tropical British world are looking around… and indenture is used to hold coloured races, who once would have been held under slavery…

The Islanders themselves are facing restrictive legislation more and more from the mid 80s, and certainly in the 90s – they're starting to be controlled…

The federal government, through its immigration restriction laws, got rid of as many South Sea Islanders as it could, which is about 1906, 1908…

The saddest thing about them is that they were useful parts of the Queensland economy and useful parts of the labour force in the nineteenth century, and then from the 1900s they're allowed to stay really only for humanitarian reasons. And then you have the bonus system set up so that it's to grow sugar with white labour, you're not going to get your bonus unless you use white labour – so they're really not wanted anymore in the sugar industry. They're totally marginalised. And these are mono-cultural societies, there's nothing else to do in the sugar towns in the 1910s, 1920s…

Their major enemies are actually the trade unions. It's the unions who make certain that they are not employed in the sugar industry…

The banks would lend money to Maltese and to Italians, they would never lend money to establish farms to the South Sea islanders…

Fifth and sixth generation immigrant Australians, largely they still live in Queensland and in northern New South Wales…

They started to politically lobby the Queensland and the federal government. And it took them more than twenty years – I think the Commonwealth government eventually gives in, I think in 1996. And the Queensland government, I think it's 2000 by the time that they win acknowledgement that they are a distinct and different ethnic group in Australia, and they are a disadvantaged group and are worthy of special assistance, and they should not have to use the subterfuge of being indigenous.