The monument to the South Sea Islanders in Maryborough.
The monument to the South Sea Islanders in Maryborough.

DARK PAST: When slavery came to a Qld coastal town

AN EDITORIAL in the Sydney Morning Herald this month said while Australia was not immune from US-style racial tension, the nation did not have the "legacy of slavery".

But those with knowledge of Maryborough history were quick to rebuke that claim.

Sugar cane was cultivated around Maryborough from the late 1860s.

A labour shortage existed in Queensland at the time.

An inexpensive labour force was sought by cane plantation owners.

Between 1863 and 1904, approximately 50,000 Islanders were brought to Queensland as indentured labourers, generally employed on three-year contracts bound by the current Masters and Servants Act 1861.

The first South Sea Islanders employed in the Maryborough district arrived in November 1867 aboard the schooner Mary Smith, a month after the Gympie gold rush commenced.

Most of this group of 84 men became employees of the Maryborough Sugar Company.

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the treatment of South Sea Islanders had been "brushed from history", as well as that of the indigenous population.

He said no community could stand still when it came to trying to address racism.

"There is always more to do - no society can be just and still accept racism."


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