The little-known history of New Hebridean labourers in 19th century New Zealand – a tale waiting to be told

A New Hebridean flaxworker in the Hokianga region of the north island of New Zealand, c. 1872, photographed by Daniel Mundy

A New Hebridean flaxworker in the Hokianga region of the north island of New Zealand, c. 1872, photographed by Daniel Mundy

About sixty thousand Melanesians, almost all of them from (present-day) Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, were brought to Queensland to toil in that state’s sugarfields in the nineteenth century. Today, the descendants of some of these ‘blackbirded’ labourers make up Australia’s South Sea Islander community. In Vanuatu and in the Solomons many families remember ancestors who suffered in Queensland. Historians have told the story of Queensland’s bonded labourers in essays and books and documentary films.

But the stories of the Melanesians who were brought to New Zealand have seldom been told. Only a relatively small number of Melanesians came to New Zealand, and few of them stayed permanently. But their presence prompted debates in the media and in parliament, and led to the creation of an historic set of photographs.
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Large earthquake off Hunter Island, tsunami threat cancelled, numerous aftershocks

Map showing location of today's large earthquake off Hunter Island in the far south of Vanuatu. Map: USGS

Map showing location of today’s large earthquake off Hunter Island in the far south of Vanuatu. Map: US Geological Survey

A large earthquake struck the seabed off the coast of Hunter Island at around 12:26pm today. Initially measured at 7.6 on the Richter scale, it was later downgraded to 7.2 and a precautionary tsunami warning that had been issued was cancelled. So far, six aftershocks have been recorded in the vicinity.

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Australian union helps Ni-Vanuatu workers taking part in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program

Executive of the Vanuatu National Worker’s Union (VNWU) and the chairperson of the South Pacific Council of Trade Union, Loreen Bani, met with representatives of the Australian National Union of Workers yesterday. Photo: Joe Harry Karu

The Executive of the Vanuatu National Worker’s Union (VNWU) and the chairperson of the South Pacific Council of Trade Unions, Loreen Bani, met with representatives of the Australian National Union of Workers yesterday to discuss issues affecting ni-Vanuatu workers participating in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program. Photo: Joe Harry Karu

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Govt denies breach of contract over citizenship scheme, asks ‘where is our money’?

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Next phase of Bauerfield International Airport upgrade to be revealed this Friday

Port Vila's Bauerfield international airport

Phase two of the planned expansion and upgrade announced on Friday: Port Vila’s Bauerfield international airport from the air

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Vanuatu defeats NC in second international friendly; fraudulent work permits; missing Sarakata funds

Coach Moise Poida celebrates Vanuatu's win over New Caledonia with his players. Photo: Vanuafoot

Coach Moise Poida celebrates Vanuatu’s win over New Caledonia with his players. Photo: Vanuafoot

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New portfolios likely; Niscol fire under investigation; Lini Day exhibition a hit

Reform of the ministerial structure of the Vanuatu Government will enable the creation of new portfolios. PM Charlot Salwai last week pointed out some portfolios where there is a need for such review. He gave as an example the heavy work load on one ministry – Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – when addressing a press conference on Friday.

The Tripartite Labour Advisory Council has been asked to allow Read the rest of this entry »