Islanders mark local history
FEW realise the significance of the Tweed as home to thousands of South Sea Islanders who fled oppression in Queensland more than 100 years ago.
Brought to Australia as labourers in the late 1800s to work the cane and banana plantations, many of the islanders fled to NSW around the turn of the last century, settling around Cudgen and Chinderah after Queensland moved to deport them under the White Australia Policy of 1901.
Some of those settlers started up their own banana farms in the area, often working at night so as not to be seen.
Their colourful history was marked on Saturday when descendants of the first South Sea Islanders to the region opened the community's new display room at the Tweed Shire Council administration offices in Tweed Heads.
The display has been relocated from its original position in the civic centre to make way for the expansion of the Tweed library due early next year.
The display represents the first stage of the centre with plans afoot to work with the Tweed Museum to expand the exhibition.
Tweed Gold Coast Australian South Sea Islander Community president Fiona Mount welcomed dignitaries to the event, including members of five generations of the Togo family, one of the first Islander families to settle on the Tweed.
Other dignitaries included Vanuatu Chief Hendon Kalsakau, some of whose relatives are buried in the community cemetery at Chinderah, who travelled to the Tweed to mark the occasion with his wife Betty.
Former long-serving Tweed mayor Max Boyd, who presided over the opening of the first SSI display in November 2000, paid homage to several significant members of the community, including the late Phyllis Corowa, Faith Bandler and Walter Mussing who sought national recognition of their people.
"This is another chapter in Australia's history that cannot be forgotten,” Mr Boyd said.
"But we can go some way towards showing our dismay for the way in which our white forebears treated this minority group of fine people. We can heartily congratulate them on this wonderful exhibition; give them whatever assistance available and support them in their aspirations.”