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Vanuatu Independence Day anniversary event

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On June 30 2021 Mayor Jack Dempsey issued an historic apology for the past practice of “blackbirding”

Twelve months ago this week Bundaberg Regional Council Mayor Jack Dempsey issued an historic apology for the past practice of “blackbirding”.

Blackbirding saw indentured labour from Pacific Islands forced to work in the region’s canefields.

The emotional event was held on June 30, which also marks Vanuatu Independence Day, and saw the Bundaberg Region enter into a formal agreement with Luganville.

The establishment of the Sister City agreement was the first between Australia and Vanuatu.

On the first anniversary of these two historic moments, Bundaberg Regional Libraries will host a Vanuatu Independence Day event.

From 9.30 am on Saturday July 30, members of the local South Sea Islander community have been invited to speak at the event.

Artefacts and library resources will also be on display.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said it was important to mark the 12 month anniversary and recognise and celebrate the region’s South Sea Islander community.

“We, as a community, have taken some important steps towards reconciliation and it’s essential that we continue the conversation,” Mayor Dempsey said.

“Vanuatu Independence Day and the anniversary of the Bundaberg Region’s historic acknowledgment is an ideal opportunity to come together as a community to learn, remember and move forward.”

Bundaberg South Sea Islanders Heritage Association President Coral Walker has been invited by Council to speak at the event.

She said recognition was important and encouraged the community to attend the event to learn more about South Sea Islander history.

“We were known as the lost people,” Coral said.

“A lot of people didn’t know … about the blackbirding.

“I would love for those who are interested in the reconciliation to come along and listen and be part of.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the free Vanuatu Independence Day event.

No bookings are required.

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