A panel discussion of the Australian South Sea Islanders was held successfully over the weekend at the Solomon Islands National Museum auditorium in Honiara.
Director of the Solomon Islands National Museum Tony Heorake said the discussion was organized by the National Museum to mark the world museum day.
The Australian South Sea Islanders (blackbirding) story is one of the important piece of history in the Solomon Islands, said Heorake.
He said the aim of the panel discussion is for the Solomon Islanders to have a clear knowledge of the South Sea Islanders and to provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions and share their stories and most importantly to reconnect our people.
The panellists involved Professor Clive Moore, the Head of University of Queensland School of History, Emelda Davis – President Australian South Islanders (Port Jackson), Clacy Fatnowna – member of Fatnowna family and Marcia Eves.
The discussion has attracted a lot of members from the public who asked questions and shared their views on the Australian South Sea Islanders.
In his presentation Professor Clive Moore said from 1863 to 1908 about 62,000 indentured labourers from the Pacific Islands were taken to work in Queensland.
Professor Moore revealed that indentured labourers from the Pacific Islands were recruited through the process of kidnapping, cultural kidnapping, voluntary enlistment and passage masters to work in the plantations, farms and maritime in Queensland.
South Sea Islanders are working in Queensland and other parts of the New South Wales for more than 40 years before the Australian government passed the Pacific Islands Labourer Act (White Australian Policy) in 1901 to repatriate the islanders between 1906 and 1908 he added.
This legislation has resulted in 7,500 Pacific Islanders (called “Kanakas”) was deported and entry into Australia by Pacific Islanders after 1904 was prohibited.
However, there were 2000 South Sea Islanders remained in Australia said Professor Moore.
Clacy Fatnowna one of the Solomon Islands decedents said; “it’s been an honour and privilege to come and share what our ancestors have been gone through and most importantly to be reconnected and strengthen our relationship with our people in the Solomon Islands.
“It took 150 years before we are able to reconnect with our families in the Solomon Islands,” said Fatnowna a member of the Fatnowna family from Fataleka.
Members of the public who attendance the discussion expressed their gratitude to the panellists and the National Museum for organizing the event.
“We have learnt a lot from this event especially from the stories and photos shared by the Solomon Islands decedents,” said Lawrence Kwana.
“However, we need more people to perused studies in history, because we want our own people to write our own history, thus the government needs to prioritise history in his human resource training and development priority areas of study,” said Lawrence.
Director of the Solomon Islands National Museum Tony Heorake has thanked the panellist for their time and be part of the programme.
“I would like to thank the members of the panel for availing their time to travelled from Australia to the Solomon Islands to share their knowledge, stories and provide a platform to educate the people through materials.”
By PETER IROGA