Racism Rears Its Ugly Head; Tweed Family Wages War against Segregation and Discrimination

Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia), April 19, 2010 | Go to article overview

Racism Rears Its Ugly Head; Tweed Family Wages War against Segregation and Discrimination


Byline: LOOKING BACK Di Millar

FROM the 1860s until the time of Australian Federation (January 1, 1901) it is estimated that 62,000 men and women were brought to Australia from Pacific Islands to carry out work considered unsuitable for white men and women.

This infamous system of sending "recruiting" schooners to bring back Islanders to Australia by any means possible was known as "black birding".

One of the men brought from the island of Ambrym (formerly in New Hebrides, now Vanuatu) was Peter Mussing who was sent to work on the North Queensland cane fields.

However, after the passing of the Pacific Islands Labourers Act by the first Australian Parliament in 1901, thousands of Islanders were rounded up and shipped back to the islands.

The legislation complemented the aims of the Immigration Restriction Act passed in the same year.

Attorney-General Alfred Deakin said at the time "the two things go hand in hand" and that they were "the necessary complement of a single policy - the policy of securing a White Australia".

Some Islanders were able to claim exemption while others fled to safer areas.

Peter Mussing escaped being deported from Australia by walking south towards the Queensland/NSW border and he eventually made his way to the Tweed.

Peter set up home with his wife Ida on a hill overlooking the Tweed River at North Tumbulgum where he farmed bananas.

Their children travelled to and from Tumbulgum School on the ferry.

Peter Mussing died in August 1924 from pneumonia leaving behind Ida, stepdaughters Elsie (Mrs Henry Mussing of Eungella) and Charlotte (Mrs Simon Tamock of Murwillumbah) and children John, Edwin, Walter, Jessie, Kathleen (Katie), Charles, Faith and Emma Irene (Rene).

Although he was still a teenager John Mussing, as the eldest son, assumed the position of head of the family at a time when his youngest sister Rene was only 10 months old.

John took over the domestic responsibilities as well as working daily on a dairy farm.

A few years later Ida took the family to live in Murwillumbah.

There were racist taunts to be faced growing up on the Tweed and while the Mussing family could go to the Regent Theatre in Murwillumbah it was a different story in Tweed Heads and Coolangatta where segregation was still practised in public establishments. …

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