Kanaka Boats Is A-Comin’: Pacific Island Labourers in Queensland

Kanaka Boats Is A-Comin’: Pacific Island Labourers in Queensland


Paul Dillon

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Isa Isa vulagi lasa dina
Nomu lako au na rarawa kina 
Cava beka ko a mai cakava

Oh my! Oh my! Happy visitor
Your leaving will sadden me.
Why did you come in the first place...

To advance the prosperity of the colony of Queensland, labour was required to clear and grub the land. South Sea Islanders served the purpose. They came in their thousands to hoe and till the land. Sixty odd thousand islanders came to Queensland as guest workers. many of them were re-engagements, happy to return to the fields of Queensland to get more trade goods. Sailing sloops known as labour vessels regularly left the regional ports of Queensland like Maryborough, Bundaberg, Townsville, and Dungeness for the South Sea Islands. There were 816 outward-bound journeys with returnees for their home islands and 784 inward journeys with recruits; for the period 1868 to 1905, a total of 1600 journeys were recorded. 

The development of the labour trade in the South Sea Islands began to alarm certain sections of the United Kingdom and colonial communities. The missionaries lobbied the British government to have it banned. The UK Government agreed to intervene but only to control and regulate the trade. As a consequence, the Imperial Kidnapping Acts of 1872 and 1875 were enacted. These Acts created several statutory offences which were enforced by the Royal Navy, With their four men-of-war and five armed schooners, the Royal Navy had more than an adequate platform from which to engage blackbirding vessels and predatory islanders. On occasion, the Navy shelled villages and landed armed parties of marines and sailors, who were not only instructed to capture suspects but to carry out acts of war against villagers by burning their dwellings, destroying their canoes, chopping down coconut trees and other fruit trees as well as destroying gardens. 

Eleven cases of kidnapping were brought before the courts. Thirty-four shipwrecks were recorded. In the majority of cases, the crew and recruits/returnees were saved. On 4 occasions, the wrecks were plundered by natives. With the federation of Australian colonies in 1901, the South Sea Islander trade came to an end, and the exodus began for the islanders still on the cane fields. Some went willingly like the Israelites of old, but some clung on to Pharaoh's apron strings unwilling to return to their island paradise. 


Other books by Paul Dillon:

Beche-De-mer:   Other books by the same author Dispela Kantri Bilong Mi, Nau! Queensland Annexes New Guinea: Other books by the same author

Product Details: 
Pg Count: 244
Size: A4 (210mm x 297mm)
Perfect Bound