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Video clip synopsis – Joe and Monica Leo embark on a journey to Vanuatu to recover a small part of their past.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 4min 32sec
Tags - family life, heritage, identity, inequality, South Sea Islanders, Vanuatu, see all tags


Sense of Belonging

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 sense_pr.mp4 (33.5MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 sense_bb.mp4 (15.8MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This interview with Joe and Monica Leo was recorded for the Pacific Stories website produced in 2005.

Joe and Monica Leo are the descendents of ni-Vanuatu who helped build Queensland’s sugar industry.

Pacific Stories is a co-production between Film Australia’s National Interest Program and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Presented by Vika and Linda Bull, the project explores the geography, history and culture of the South Pacific.

Curriculum Focus


The viewing of this video clip about Joe and Monica Leo (Australian South Sea Islanders who journeyed to Vanuatu to recover a small portion of their stolen past) and the completion of the Classroom Activities can be used to achieve the following Outcomes:

P2 identifies and describes relationships within and between social and cultural groups
P3 describes cultural diversity and commonality within societies and cultures
P5 investigates power, authority, gender and technology, and describes their influence on decision-making and participation in society
P7 applies appropriate language and concepts associated with society and culture
P10 communicates information, ideas and issues using appropriate written, oral and graphic forms.

The key concepts to be integrated across Personal and Social Identity such as: POWER, SOCIALISATION, IDENTITY, SELF, RIGHTS, FAMILY, ETHNICITY, KINSHIP and so forth fit in well with this study.

Teachers may also wish to introduce other concepts such as inequality, discrimination, socialisation, alienation, acculturation and social differentiation.

Additional Suggestions

Students could be asked to share their responses to the classroom activities verbally with others in a small group which then reports back to the whole group.

Students could consider the effectiveness of the ‘interview’ technique of social research.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Between 1863 and 1904 about 60,000 people from the islands of the South Pacific were transported to Queensland, where they toiled to create the sugar plantations of the far north. While many of the Pacific Islanders were enticed to travel to Queensland, perhaps seeking a better life, others were kidnapped. This human trafficking was euphemistically known as ‘blackbirding’.

At the beginning of last century harsh legislation such as the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, known as the ‘White Australia policy’, resulted in the deportation of many South Sea Islanders. A few thousand were permitted to remain and today north Queensland is home to more than 20,000 of their descendants.

In the late 1980s, an Evatt Foundation report (initiated by some South Sea Island leaders concerned at the deteriorating social and economic situation of their community), made the Federal Government aware that Australian South Sea Islanders had become a ‘forgotten people’ in Australia’s multicultural society. In 1983 the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) released a report called The Call for Recognition.

The Commission’s conclusions included: that the islanders were one of the poorest groups in Australia with a century of racial discrimination and harsh treatment the main contributing factors; that the islanders as a group were in a situation of high need with particular difficulties in respect to school retention, employment skills, home ownership and health; and that the group had been denied government recognition as a distinct black minority group.

Among the Commission’s recommendations were that the Government should formally recognise Australian South Sea Islanders as a unique minority group severely disadvantaged as a consequence of racial discrimination, and that Australian South Sea Islanders should be identified as a high-need group in equal opportunity, access and equity programs.

In 1994 Australian South Sea Islanders won official recognition as a distinct ethnic group. Since then, there have been efforts by governments to correct the significant disadvantages facing these people. In 2000, the Federal Parliament formally recognised Australian South Sea Islanders as a distinct cultural group. This was followed by a public apology to the Islanders for their decades of mistreatment.

Further Resources
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)

Classroom Activities


View the video clip and then complete the following tasks.

  1. Consider the visits to Vanuatu by Joe and Monica Leo.
    1. Why is the initial journey to Vanuatu important to them?
    2. What can we learn about notions of ‘identity’, ‘kinship’, ‘self’ , heritage’ and ‘family’ from watching the clip and reflecting on the experience of the Leos and other Australian South Sea Islanders who have felt compelled to trace their kin, reconnect to the land of their ancestors and learn more about their cultural heritage?
    3. What other Society and Culture concepts come to mind as you reflect on this clip and the story of Australian South Sea Islanders?
  2. Australian South Sea Islanders have been discriminated against in Australian society. Imagine and reflect on how it might feel to be:
    1. transported to a new country away from a small village community and put to work in harsh conditions
    2. given fewer rights than other workers by virtue of your background/skin colour
    3. treated differently because of your ‘differences’ and yet not have those differences recognised in a way that might give you pride in your cultural heritage or a sense of belonging to a unique cultural group
    4. deported with your family (by those with power and authority) back to a place you never lived
  3. Identify the various social and cultural groups to which Joe and Monica Leo belong. Can you identify one that seems to be the most important to each of them?
  4. Research the Joskeleigh South Sea Islander Museum in Rockhampton. What function does the Joskeleigh South Sea Islander Museum in Rockhampton play in the life of the Leos and other Australian South Sea Islanders?

Further Resources


Go to Pacific Stories Learning for Interactive Compass Map with facts about the Pacific region.

For interview transcripts, books and references for this Digital Resource go to Pacific Stories, choose Sugar Slaves, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.