The national representative organisation Australian South Sea Islanders (Port Jackson) (ASSIPJ) have coordinated several events in honour of the 25th Anniversary since 1994 when the then Prime Minister of Australia Hon. Paul Keating recognised the descendants of Australia’s Blackbirding trade for the pain, suffering and severe discrimination imposed on their community, as well as their survival and resilience as a distinct cultural group who value their islands of origin and thriving heritage.
Waskam Emelda Davis, Chairwoman of the Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson (ASSIPJ) Ltd and visiting Vanuatu Arts and Krafts women from the Shefa, Malampa, Penama and Tafea Provinces, disembark off the former pearling lugger John Louis. John Louis worked for 30 years in north-western Australian waters collecting commercial mother-of-pearl and young pearl shells for the cultured-pearl industry. Today the women sailed a short but important distance in the harbour before returning to the museum. The sail on John Louis symbolises the connections with the Australian Pacific histories.
Dressed in colourful regalia representing their South Sea Islander heritages and in full celebration, the women returned to an official Welcome to Country performed by the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council and a healing smoking ceremony by local Aboriginal custodians. The official Welcome to Country and cultural smoking ceremony offered to the South Sea Islanders was a gesture of rewriting the past wrongs of history. Offering a Welcome by First Nations Peoples to Australian waters rather than that of their forefathers and mothers who arrived by the force of trickery, brutality and slavery of Blackbirding.
The South Sea Islander women receive a Welcome to Country by Nathan Moran, Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council. The women were then immersed in a healing smoking ceremony assisted by Aboriginal youth.
Today's dignitary flag raising event commemorates the South Sea Islanders contribution to the economic, cultural and political development of our nation and in remembering the more than 60,000 Melanesian labourers taken from 100 Pacific islands now part of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu.
One of the six provincial Vanuatu flag bearers
Today's event was attended by by the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister for Women the Hon. Marise Payne, Vanuatu Foreign Minister Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, City of Sydney Lord Mayor representative Councillor Jess Scully and Member for Sydney Mr Alex Greenwich. The event was also attended by First Nations and Blackbirding descendants from the community of St Pauls on Moa Island in the Torres Strait and the Vanuatu Arts and Krafts ladies from the Shefa, Malampa, Penama and Tafea Provinces supported by the Bankstown, Blacktown and Fairfield Women’s services in a cultural exchange program coordinated in partnership with ASSIPJ and the Vanuatu Government through the Ministry of Tourism, Trades, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu business.
Left to right: Alex Greenwich, MP, Waskam Emelda Davis, Chairwoman of the Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson (ASSIPJ) Ltd and Councillor Jess Scully.
First Nations Curator Helen Anu meets relatives for the first time who attended as special guests from St Pauls community, Torres Strait
Emeritus Professor Clive Moore has been a leading historian for the documentation of the Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) and Pacific communities for some forty years. Today, Moore released Hardwork – a comprehensive educational resource on literature related to ASSI that will be launched and distributed by the Inner West Council. Hardwork spans the generations of some 172 years of self-determination through the triumphant political, written and documentary works of so many that have contributed to the development of ASSI affairs.
By raising the Australian South Sea Islanders' flag today, we acknowledge the dark history of the Blackbirding trade, many of whose descendants were present today. Pictured: Shola Diop, Treasurer of the Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson (ASSIPJ) Ltd with the organisation's honorary patron, Shireen Malamoo.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Marise Payne and Waskam Emelda Davis,
Chairwoman of the Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson (ASSIPJ)
The museum will continue to support and commemorate Australian South Sea Islander communities' history and stories.