Is­lan­der cane cut­ters have helped forge our na­tion

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

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.



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