As a second generation descendant of South Sea Islanders (kanaks) who were ruthlessly recruited (blackbirded) to serve in the most appalling conditions as plantation workers in the sugar industry of Australia, I am part of a family of activists who have sought to attain recognition and social justice for my people.
More than 55,000 people, mostly men, were brought from Vanuatu, the Solomons and eighty surrounding islands under what Australia called the indentured labour trade, which was akin to slavery. They were first brought to NSW in 1847 with an influx to Queensland between 1863 and 1904.
In the 1995 documentary Sugar Slaves, my grandfather's story is told by his eldest surviving daughter, Phyllis Corowa. She describes how he escaped deportation from Australia by the 1901 Pacific Island Labourers Act, which inhumanely deported 7000 people en masse, tearing established families and loved ones apart after 40 years living in Australia.