Islander cane cutters have helped forge our nation
I READ the very vigorous replies in your text the editor pages about South Sea islander people who were brought here against their will in the old days to cut cane.
Yes, we were taught that at school, and that it was a sad part of Australia’s history. But there is a flip side to the coin on this one, too.
Thousands of white people also were brought here from the British Isles against their will in filthy hulls of sailing ships, some dying on the way, to be flogged and to endure brutal unpaid work conditions, for such crimes as stealing a loaf of bread or a half a bag of spuds.
I worked with the descendants of these South Sea Island people in the Burdekin cane fields back in the 1960s, before the harvesters came along.
They cut cane with the same pay as anyone else. They loved fishing, crabbing, excelled at many sports such as football, attended church, have a gift for playing music and singing, and a sense of humour so strong that their gusto will almost bowl you over.
They mostly own their own homes like anyone else, and have contributed to the advancement of this nation in a way that they can be proud of. I sincerely hope that they all stay here and never go back to the lands of their ancestors.