The South Sea Islander community in Brisbane has marked the 150th anniversary of 'blackbirding'. Over four decades, more than 60,000 Islanders were tricked or forced into becoming slave labourers in Queensland.
14 Aug 2013 - 7:29 PM  UPDATED 27 Aug 2013 - 4:09 PM

The South Sea Islander community in Brisbane has marked the 150th anniversary of 'blackbirding'.

Over four decades, more than 60,000 Islanders were tricked or forced into becoming slave labourers in Queensland.

Descendants of the men today gathered on the shores of Moreton Bay, where the first boatload of Islanders was forced to work in the sugar cane fields.

Colin Terera, who has Islander and Aboriginal Munanjali blood, said they acknowledged the wrongdoing and were now focusing on the positive.

"The fact is this happened and the past is something we can't change but we can learn from so why not make something positive out of it and celebrate this history,” he said.

“I look at it like very similar to NAIDOC because that's where a lot of emotions flow and you get a lot of stuff out of you and that's very important to human beings worldwide, to have a form of celebration."

At 80 years old, Aunty Joyce Lea is one of the remaining first-generation South Sea Islanders.

Her father was blackbirded from Vanuatu.

"My Dad, he came from Tanner Island. He told us the story how he was lured on the boats with fake jewellery. They took jewellery onto the islands and showed the Kanaka people on the island that if they wanted more they only had to come out to the boats,” she said.

“This is the story my Dad used to tell us and then when they got their quota or the amount of people they wanted on boat they would just pull up anchor and then they sailed and he was put to work into the canefields of Bundaberg.”

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