Between 1863 and 1904, over 62,000 Pacific island people sent as slaves or indentured labour to Queensland

Between 1863 and 1904, over 62,000 people from the Melanesian archipelagos provided the colony of Queensland with indentured labour for its emerging agricultural industries. A Sydney parliamentarian and merchant, Captain Robert Towns, first arranged for a sandalwood trader operating from Tanna, Henry Ross Lewin, to recruit islanders from the Loyalty and New Hebrides Groups in 1863. They were employed at Towns cotton plantation on the Logan River; and cotton growing, with the sheep, cattle, pearl shelling, fisheries and domestic service industries became significant employers of island labour over the next 15 years. However, the sugar plantations on the river plains around Brisbane, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Mackay, Bowen and Cairns led the demand for indentured labour over the next 40 years. From 1880, when Melanesians were restricted to employment in tropical and semi-tropical agriculture, island labour was effectively concentrated in the cane-fields.
y Reid Mortensen


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