City to host islander conference
BUNDABERG will host the first national conference of South Sea Islanders, which will lead to the creation of an Australia-wide representative body.
The four-day event will take place at the Bundaberg Civic Centre over the Easter weekend, from April 6-9, and is expected to be attended by up to 1000 people.
More than 60,000 South Sea Islanders were brought to Australia in the late 19th century to work on sugar cane plantations. Through a practice commonly known as blackbirding - luring slave labourers through trickery - many were brought to the Bundaberg region.
Representatives of the Australian South Sea Islander (Port Jackson) group travelled to Bundaberg on Thursday to discuss plans for the conference with Bundaberg South Sea Islanders.
Visiting members including president Emelda Davis and director Donna Carla met with Bundaberg members to gain some local knowledge.
"We need to work together to deliver a successful conference," Ms Davis said.
The conference will provide an opportunity for South Sea Islanders spread out all over the nation to get together and elect a delegation of representatives to form a national body.
"The conference is the beginning of a long process, which will lead to a national body being elected, one voice to speak on behalf of all Australian South Sea Islanders," Ms Carla said.
Ms Davis said the upcoming conference would be a "historic moment" for her people and would allow many to come together for the first time.
"Our aim is to reunite families and re-ignite cultural immersion so that formerly disconnected islanders can reconnect with relatives to form stronger cultural ties and to develop a deeper understanding of their culture and identity," she said.
"The forming of a national body will help inspire children and carry forward our culture."
The NSW government has recently presented the Port Jackson group with $5000 to help with the conference planning.