It’s been 150 years since South Sea Islanders were first blackbirded from their homes to work in the Queensland cane fields.
For many it’s a sad and shameful chapter in Australian history.
But for Ned Denman it was more personal than that.
His grandfather used South Sea Islanders for labourers on his cane farm near Mackay.
This is where Mr Denman came to meet them and learn of their tragic situation.
He says his Grandfather was a man of his time with his attitude towards the workers.
That is, he didn’t believe Europeans could carry out the work physically.
“Like many other people in that era he believed the industry could not function without the Islanders.”
“He never used physical violence, that was not his nature, but he believed very firmly the Islander had signed an agreement and it was his duty to carry out that agreement.”
An agreement, Mr Denman says, that strongly favoured the employer and was extremely restrictive to the islanders.
“There was very little consideration given to the rights of the employee, the Islander”
Mr Denman has spent many years studying and recording the history of his family and the connection with South Sea Islanders.
He says when the White Australia Policy was introduced, many South Sea Islanders were deported between 1904 and 1908.
Employment of the workers was banned after 1903 and only a minority of Islanders were allowed to stay in Australia.