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1995, 56 Minutes

The secret history of Australia’s slave trade.

Australia’s slave trade is an untold story. Few people know that the Australian sugar industry was founded on the sweat of men and women enticed or kidnapped from the islands of the South Pacific.

Sugar Slaves is the story of that human traffic, euphemistically known as "blackbirding". Between 1863 and 1904 about 60,000 islanders were transported to the colony of Queensland, where they toiled to create the sugar plantations of the far north. Then, after the introduction of a White Australia policy, most were deported. A few thousand were permitted to remain and today north Queensland is home to 20,000 of their descendants. 

In 1994 Australian Islanders at last won official recognition as a distinct ethnic group. According to a Government sponsored report, it has suffered "a century of racial discrimination and harsh treatment..."

Now Islanders are beginning to trace their history and are finding their long-lost relatives in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations. A unique community—the only substantial black migrant group in Australia—is at last uncovering the little known story of Australia's sugar slaves.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced in association with Annamax Media and Arcadia Films with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Director/Co-producer: Trevor Graham

Featured People: Grace Molisa, Chief John Aroo, Chief Selwyn Liliu, Marlene Henaway, Noah Sabbo, Joe Leo, Monica Leo, Des Eggmolesse, Cecily Eggmolesse, Phyllis Corowa, Dr Clive Moore, Ross Fitzgerald.

Year: 1995

Running Time: 56 Minutes

Classification: PG. Consumer Advice: Adult themes.

Curriculum Links: Australian Colonialism; Australian History, of particular relevance to Year 9 'Movement of Peoples', Cultural Diversity and Globalisation, Social Justice and Human Rights; Work Education.


Australian Biography: Faith Bandler

Everyday Brave For Who I Am - Bonita Mabo

Solomon Islands




SKU 199301000
Brand Film Australia

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