The Australian South Sea Islander flag has been raised in Buss Park in honour of Australian South Sea Islander Recognition Day.
Mayor Jack Dempsey met with Coral Walker, president of the Bundaberg South Sea Islanders Heritage Association, to take part in the special event and said it was important to recognise the history of the local South Sea Islander community.
“In August 1863, the schooner Don Juan moored in Brisbane with the first South Sea Islanders to arrive in Australia, 67 men from the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), who were brought to work on a cotton plantation on the Logan River,” he said.
“Between 1863 and 1904 some 62,000 people were brought to Queensland and New South Wales from the Pacific Islands to work as labourers and domestic servants, effectively as slaves in many cases.
“Some were ‘blackbirded’ or otherwise induced into long-term indentured service. Most were employed on sugar and cotton plantations, sheep and cattle farms and in the pearling and fishing industries.”
The Australian South Sea Islander community was recognised by the Commonwealth Government as a unique minority group in 1994 and the Queensland Government followed in 2000.
“People descended from the Islanders are an integral part of the Bundaberg Region's fabric and they helped to build the wonderful community we have today,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“Tonight, the fig trees near the Multiplex will be lit in the colours of the Australian South Sea Islander flag.”
Coral said Australian South Sea Islander Recognition Day was about commemorating ancestors from Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
“It was really a privilege to be part of today's flag raising and was great recognition for our people,” she said.
“I was emotional because it was an honour to be there on behalf of my elders and my people, past and present.”