Free for educational use
Year of production - 1995
Duration - 4min 6sec
Tags - blackbirding, civics and citizenship, culture, identity, Pacific region, Vanuatu, see all tags
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About the Video Cliptop
The Sugar Labour Trade is an excerpt from the film Sugar Slaves (56 mins) produced in 1995.
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. Then, after the introduction of a White Australia policy, most were deported. A unique community – the only substantial black migrant group in Australia – is at last uncovering the past.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Historic knowledge and understanding
Historic reasoning and interpretation
In Level 6 History, students have the opportunity to
- Use the issue of Sugar Slaves to investigate a significant Australian event.
- Enhance their historical skills by using a range of sources and the higher order thinking skills of reasoning and interpretation.
- Actively engage with a number of key historical concepts.
This clip is directly linked to Level 6 Civic and Citizenship domain in which Australia’s place in the Asia Pacific region and the world are examined.
Other Links to VELS:
Physical, Personal and Social Learning
Interpersonal Development – working and learning in teams, values as social constructs, resolving conflicts
Personal learning – ethical considerations, manage own learning
Civic and Citizenship – Concept of democracy, personal identity, knowing rights and responsibilities as a citizen, human rights, social justice
Opportunities for enhancing
- Communication skills
- ICT skills
- Higher order thinking skills
Because the Pacific Islanders were paid so poorly compared to other unskilled workers in Australia, they were seen by some as a threat to employment. Opposition to these non-white immigrants came in some cases from those involved in the labour movement. They did not object when the Commonwealth decided to deport most Pacific Islanders between 1904 and 1908 as part of the implementation of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (often referred to as the ‘White Australia policy’). In the southern states of Australia there were others, including those in labour movement, who took a different view and called for fair treatment of the Pacific Island workers.
After Federation a few thousand Pacific Islanders were not deported and were permitted to remain in Australia. Today north Queensland is home to more than 20,000 of their descendants.
*The Call for Recognition: a report on the situation of Australian South Sea Islanders, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1992 – cited in ‘The Call for Recognition’, Department of the Premier and Cabinet (Queensland)
- Use evidence from the video clip to list the work that women from the Pacific Islands did on the canefields. Using material from all four video clips choose one Pacific Islander – female or male, with a particular type of work – and write a detailed diary entry, called ‘A day in the life of a Pacific Islander on the Queensland canefields’. Share some of your stories by reading them to the class.
- Why do you think that Phyllis’s grandmother never talked about her experiences on the canefields?
- How reliable are the black and white photos as evidence of work and life on the canefields? Who do you think took these photos?
- Why were the Pacific Islander workers unable to better their working conditions? Is it possible for groups of workers today to work in similar conditions? Give reasons and evidence for your answer.