Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Islanders Played Role in Region's Early Prosperity

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Islanders Played Role in Region's Early Prosperity

Article excerpt

LOOKING BACK

GEORGE SEYMOUR

THE Polson Cemetery in Point Vernon has hundreds of graveside memorials from different eras among which the kangaroos graze and lie about.

Walking through the cemetery provides both an opportunity to learn about Hervey Bay's history and also an illustration of how memorials have changed over the decades.

Amongst the memorials is a unique monument which recognises a part of our history that is all too often ignored.

The inscription on the monument reads: To the memory of all South Sea Islanders brought to Queensland as conscript labourers to work in cotton and sugar cane fields 1863-1906. May their toil be not forgotten. Erected by Hervey Bay OPAL

Also inscribed on the base is the word 'Daralata' meaning 'we have come a long way'.

The monument was erected by the One People of Australia League (OPAL) in 1972 and depicts two life-size Islanders with a backdrop of cane fields. One of the men is standing with a cane knife in one hand whilst the other hand is holding the arm of a deceased companion at his feet.

It was erected at the Polson Cemetery because it is the final resting place for 55 Islanders, whose graves, like elsewhere on the Fraser Coast, are unmarked.

Between 1863 and 1906 many thousands of Islanders were brought to Queensland as indentured labour in Queensland's sugar cane industry. Many were kidnapped or 'blackbirded'; they had little or no understanding of the three year labour contracts they signed.

They were taken from islands like those incorporated into the nations we now know as New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

In August 1863 the Don Juan returned to Queensland with the first South Sea Islanders to be brought over. They were put to work on the Robert Towns' property on the Logan River. …

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