Australian South Sea Islander flag raising

Monday 22 August 2022

Inner West will raise the Australian South Sea Islander flag at Petersham Town Hall on Wednesday 24 August at 4pm.

Media are invited to attend.

• 2022 marks 175 years since Benjamin Boyd illegally trafficked some 200 Melanesian men from Vanuatu and New Caledonia to slave alongside Maori and First Nations people in his whaling and cotton industries

• His Excellency the Honourable Samson Vilvil Fare Vanuatu High Commissioner to Australia, Australian South Sea Islanders (Port Jackson) Board members, and Pacific dance troop Spirit of the Islands will attend

• Inner West became the first Council in Australia to move a notice of motion to recognise ASSIs and fly the Australian South Sea Islander flag as an annual commitment

Flying the Australian South Sea Islander flag recognises and acknowledges the contribution of South Pacific Islanders to Australia’s history as well as shining a light on Australia’s shameful role in their exploitation.

Australian South Sea Islanders are the descendants of South Pacific Islanders who were forced into Australia’s indentured labour scheme - also known as ‘Blackbirding’ – in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Blackbirded South Pacific Islanders were made to work primarily on sugar cane and cotton plantations, but also in maritime and pastoral industries throughout NSW and Queensland.

With all the hallmarks of the African slave trade, many were kidnapped or tricked into this service, with some 15,000 dying as a part of the industry and then buried in unmarked graves.

“Tens of thousands of islanders were transported, sometimes forcibly, from all over the South Pacific and forced to do backbreaking work in the plantations of Queensland and northern NSW,” said Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne.

“But the cruelty didn’t end there. With the adoption of the White Australia Policy under the Pacific Island Labourers Act in 1901, more than 7,000 Pacific Islanders were then forcibly deported from the country.

“To add insult to injury, all of those deported were forced to pay for a portion of their fare home from the negligible - if any - wages they had received,” he added.

“Only 2,500 Pacific Islanders avoided deportation. And it is from those who remained that a distinct Australian South Sea Island community emerged.

“We as a nation have treated Australian South Sea Islanders in a shameful way and we need to right that wrong.”

(Waskam) Emelda Davis is Chair of ASSI-Port Jackson and a City of Sydney Councillor whose grandfather Moses was 12 years old when he was stolen from Tanauta in Vanuatu.

Moses and his two friends were trafficked to Bundaberg far north Queensland in the 1800s to slave on Ferrymead Plantation owned by Colonia Sugar Refinery (CSR).

Councillor Davis said, “Port Jackson (Sydney) was the epicentre and receiving port for Pacific labourers since the 1790s.

“Our forebears were exploited in building lucrative businesses such as Burns Philip Shipping Co (Bridge Street Sydney) who managed the vessels across Pacific waters and former CSR Sugar Wharf at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont which also processed the sugar cane from across Queensland and NSW, cut by our forebears.

“Today ASSI is slowly regaining a sense of belonging through the goodwill of local, state and federal government leaders but not without the years of activism by generations of elders and supporters across Australia.”

“The need for meaningful programs and services for stolen generations of our Pacific nations is a waylaid priority,” Councillor Davis said.

RSVP to the Communications team.

For media enquiries, contact Elizabeth Heath, Media and Communications Coordinator, 9392 5334 or

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Page last updated: 22 Aug 2022