South Sea Islander MemorialPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by John Huth

A monument commemorates the contribution of the more than 62,000 South Sea Islanders, many of whom were "blackbirded" (kidnapped) from their villages in the South Pacific, and transported to Australia from 1863 to 1904, to work as indentured labour in the sugar cane fields and banana plantations of Queensland, and as timber fellers in the "Cudgen scrub."

Most of the original labourers were recruited from the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides (Vanuatu), though others were taken from the Loyalty Islands, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu.  Some were kidnapped (“blackbirded”) or otherwise induced into long-term indentured service.  

Of the more than 60,000 Islanders recruited from 1863, the majority were to be "repatriated" (that is, deported) by the Australian Government between 1906 and 1908 under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901, legislation prompted by the White Australia Policy.   Some were exempted on various grounds, including marriage to Australians. 



Address:Tweed Coast Road, Cudgen Burial Ground, Chinderah, 2487
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -28.247663
Long: 153.554455
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Culture


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 10th April, 1999
Front Inscription

Australian Heritage Commission
Site No 19489 24.6.1997

Cudgen Burial Ground

Forest Hill Village Grass House 

Cudgen Burial Ground is historically significant as the last resting place of many South Sea Islanders who were brought to the East Coast of Australia as cheap labour during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It is one of the few known burial sites of these people in Australia.  Between 1863 and 1904 more than 62,000 South Sea Islanders came to Queensland as indentured labourers.  They were recruited from more than 80 South Pacific Islands, mainly Vanuata, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

 Indentured labour contracts were for a three year term which bound them to an employer for 6 pounds a year - plus rations.  On completion of contract the employer was to return the worker to his home island - many renegotiated their contracts and eventually remained in Australia.

The recruitment operations were known as "Black Birding".  Kidnapping was common during the early years of these labour drives.  Many islanders were taken when they attempted to trade with the visiting ships, or were enticed on board from fishing canoes.  (In 1872, the Pacific Islander Protection Act outlawed these kidnapping practices).

In the late nineteenth century Cudgen was one of the busiest towns in the Tweed River region with timber cutters felling red cedar, black bean, cedar and teak fron the Cudgen scrub.  The South Sea Islanders formed a large proportion of these workers.  W. W. Julius in 1887 built a sugar mill in Cudgen and in 1890 completed the first crush.  Several years later the mill was sold to John Robb, a railway contractor, who employed some 300 South Sea Islanders to lay tramlines for the transportation of cane to the mill.  Many of these Islanders had been indentured to John Robb in the construction of the Kuranda Railway in North Queensland.  They worked as laboureres in cultivation and cutting sugar cane, the women stripped the cane for planting and worked with chipping hoes.  The men cleared land at Duranbah, Bungalora, Tumbulgum, Eungella, Terranore and other areas in the Tweed River Region and undertook drainage works in the sugar cane areas of Cudgen and Chinderah.  

Left Side Inscription

This memorial was erected on unmarked grave sites of South Sea Islanders by the National Federation of Australian South Sea Islanders Tweed Northen N.S.W. Incorp. in 1988

Opened by Phyliss Corowa
South Sea Islander

10th April, 1999

Right Side Inscription

[ Names ]

[ Names ]

Vanuatu (new Hebrides)
[ Names ]

New Caledonia
[ Names ]

Cook Islands
[ Name ]

[ Name ]


Inscription in Proximity

Cudgen Burial Ground

South Sea Islander Memorial

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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