Australian South Sea Islanders are the descendants of the Kanakas – Pacific islanders “black birded” from Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji and other locations for the 19th century colonial labour trade. Today, Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) are working to add value to their status as a distinct group in Australian society; for recognition of their history and of the difficulties they face as a result of decades of exploitation and exclusion.
The kanakas provided the labour to establish the sugar and cotton industries in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Then, after Federation, the Pacific Islander Labourers Act severely restricted the number of new arrivals from the Pacific Islands and culminated in an act of mass deportation from 1906 to 1908.
The Monthly magazine has presented a profile of ASSI activist Emelda Davis and her work to recognise the ASSI community and their human rights.