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Women Speak Out! A Report of the Pacific Women's Conference. October 27 – November 2

Australian South Sea Islander

Australian South Sea Islander

I represent a minority of South Sea Island people, descendants of the people who were brought to Australia as slaves during the period between 1860's and 1906 by the Queensland government. They worked for sugar cane farmers to establish the sugar industry in Queensland. They suffered great hardships and untold injustices.

This was prior to the federation of the Australian government, and up to date we have never been recognised as an ethnic group and have never been compensated for the loss of our identity. Our people have had to fill in applications to the government identifying as Aboriginal people to get financial assistance. In December 1974 we received a letter from the then Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs saying that we were not entitled to the benefits that are available to Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders.

The consequences of this action is that the women and children are suffering because all our people are not skilled workers which means that wages are very low. Therefore you will understand that our men and women cannot provide adequate housing, education, or health facilities for our families. And the women find it very hard to make ends meet all the time.

Our people are descendants from New Guinea to Fiji; the bulk of the people are descended from New Hebrides and Solomon Islands. We are a dispossesed people, we will never attain the status that the island women here today are striving for.

You speak of your culture and extended family kinship; our ancestors were taken from their families at the ages of 14 years onwards. Although we still retain the kinship we have lost our culture. So what have our children got to look forward to in an extreme racist country as Australia?