Queensland State Archives and Australian South Sea Islander records
10 July 2013
The South Sea Islander collection at Queensland State Archives documents the arrival and lives of Pacific Islanders who came to Queensland as indentured labourers from the 1860s until the early 1900s. The collection shows the transition that took place from indentured labourers to permanent residents and also reveals the nature of the mass deportation ordered by the Australian Federal Government in the 1900s after the closure of the labour trade.
In the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first South Sea Islanders to Queensland, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has added 67 historically significant items from Queensland State Archives' collection to its prestigious Australian Memory of the World Register. The register lists documentary heritage collections of national significance and outstanding Australian value.
Queensland State Archives identified these records as significant not only for the Australian-born descendents of the original Islander generation but also in the context of Australian history. These records provide evidence for ancestral and lineage research and the broader research topics of economy and demography in early Queensland.
The bulk of these archival records were created by the then Inspector of Pacific Islanders in Maryborough. Most are now owned by the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs, with some belonging to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. As the custodian of the largest and most significant documentary heritage collection in Queensland, Queensland State Archives now manages and houses these records in specialised environmentally controlled repositories to ensure they remain available for future generations.
Many of these records and other records relating to Australian South Sea Islanders are now available on Queensland State Archives' website which gives access to these important records for people living anywhere in the world.
Queensland State Archives' work on this successful nomination has resulted in world-wide recognition of these significant records and raises awareness of the unique history of Australian South Sea Islanders.