Memorial to Kanakas from Vanuatu (New Hebrides) who were "blackbirded" and landed in Maryborough, Queensland in 1870-1900 period

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Comments (4)

Ian Stehbens on January 31, 2008

A stone has been split in two for this memorial to remind us that the "blackbirding" tore families apart. Young men mostly and young women were taken from New Hebrides to work on the sugar farms and plantations of Queensland and Fiji in the 1870-1900 era. Many went willingly, others were lured, some captured by the recruiting vessels. On arrival in Queensland they were engaged by the plantation managers and went to work 6 days per week as manual labourers. Cemetery records reveal the large numbers of them that died in Queensland from pneumonia and other diseases and were buried often nameless. Many did return to their homelands but their absence of years (minimum of 4 years was common) meant relations had changed at home in their absence, too.

The resulting impact on the population of New Hebrides meant that by 1920, the 1870 population had declined there to around 25%.!!

There certainly was a great deal of social pain, some of which is still evident in social patterns today.

The symbols on the stone are traditional symbols of the culture of Vanuatu: the namele frond is the symbol of peace; the pig's tusk is the symbol of reconciliation and prosperity. Both symbols are found on the ni Vanuatu flag.

This memorial acknowledging those who came to Maryborough from New Hebrides is accompanied by similar split rocks bearing traditional cultural symbols for New Caledonia and Solomon Islands.

I am truly delighted that Maryborough City has seen fit to erect such a memorial to acknowledge the need for reconciliation as well as to celebrate the contribution that "Kanakas" made to the prosperity and history of the city.


©IR Stehbens on February 2, 2008

Such an excellent thing for Maryborough City to do. Redressing the past can only be done with truth-telling, empathy and mercy. There are no shortcuts to justice.

Ian Stehbens on February 3, 2008

Dear Lincluden and all international delegates,

Bundaberg City and tiny Bauple village have also done some memorial work that values the contribution of the Kanakas as well as acknowledges their suffering. Bundaberg City Council has recognized the portion of the general cemetery where South Sea Islanders were buried as a heritgae area, and the Fairymead Plantation house has been relocated there. Fairymead was the home of the Young Family, and Florence Young in particular, who is renowned in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu for having taught the Christian gospel as well as literacy to the indentured Islanders on Fairymead.

The indigenous church, South Sea Evangelical Church in Solomon Islands and PNG had its birth in the Sunday School of Florence Young. So this part of history is adequately recognized on both sides of the Coral Sea.

Grace and peace to all,


Ian Stehbens on May 8, 2010

Dear gondor,

You beauty. Go for it, my friend. And you will be in trouble, big trouble if I don't see you!! :))

Hawaii, Marquesas and Samoa are all good, brilliant. NZ and eastern Australia can be beautifully added to that.

I'll need to know more of the style of travel, accommodation, and time periods you intend. But the three you have started with are superb. If you make it to Tonga then 'Eua is worth the visit for it sounds like you have a real interest in big geographies by the 3 you mentioned.

I'll probably be in Tonga in July-Nov period, so a connection there is realistic. But there is much in the Pacific, especially in Melanesia and you haven't mentioned that area. Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG are all quite incredible.

We can discuss this further through another channel if you like.

The best English language reference books on the region are the publications by "Lonely Planet" Guide books.

You have stirred me tonight, brother!!!


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  • Uploaded on January 30, 2008
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    by Ian Stehbens