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address: 245 Wilson Street Eveleigh, Redfern NSW   …

GROUNDSWELL: Creative Thinkers, Creative Solutions is an arts sector-driven collective to advance the Arts in NSW so that they reflect our culturally diverse society. Groundswell is run by a volunteer committee that meets regularly to discuss current issues and how it can take an active role to influence changes.

Groundswell is delighted to be presenting this important forum at Carriageworks to share and discuss critical issues and new futures in the heart of Redfern. Multicultural Arts Forum 2012 is about coming together to learn from our collective histories, and looking for new and collaborative ways forward to face the challenges that exist now in order to create our future.

Thank you for joining us and we look forward to hearing from everyone throughout the next two days and beyond.

Annalouise Paul (Chair & Founder) is an actor, dancer and choreographer who has worked in theatre, radio, opera, film and television in London, Los Angeles and Australia. Born in Sydney, she trained at Laban Centre, London in contemporary dance and studied flamenco from key maestros in Spain and London. She has danced for Bill T. Jones Co, Aletta Collins, Antonio Vargas and Karole Armitage and commercially for Michael Jackson, Los Angeles Opera, Australian Dance Awards, Sydney Festival and was assistant choreographer on True Lies. Acting credits include Days Of Our Lives, Love My Way and Rennies Landing and numerous commercials in the US and Australia. Annalouise has been creating intercultural dance theatre for over two and half decades, receiving support from Australia Council, Arts NSW, Critical Path and Greater London Arts for her research and development. Her works explore cultural identity and transformation using live music and cultural dance. In 2011, Theatre of Rhythm and Dance was launched with Game On at the Sydney Opera House with Bobby Singh on Indian tabla and contemporary dancer, Miranda Wheen. Annalouise has been awarded a choreographic scholarship at the inaugural American Dance Festival in Henan, China in 2012. She has a long history of working in arts in education developing pilot programs for D.E.T., ConnectEd, Australia Council and is currently working with STARTTS and South Sudanese youth. Groundswell was initiated by Annalouise in 2010 as a sector-driven forum for the advocacy and advancement of multicultural arts practice in NSW.

Extract from guest speakers:

09:45 – 10:15

Keynote Speaker: Senator the Honourable Kate Lundy Minister for Sport; Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Minister for Industry and Innovation; Senator for the Australian Capital Territory 

Senator Kate Lundy was first elected to the Senate for the Australian Capital Territory in 1996. Following the 2010 Federal Election, she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship. In February 2011, Kate’s title was updated to Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural affairs. This change followed the launch of The People of Australia policy and the announcement that she would have a renewed focus on multicultural affairs in her role as Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

In March 2012, Kate became the Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation. Prior to the 2010 election, Kate was Chair of the Joint Standing Committee for the National Capital and External Territories, a long-standing member of the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee and one of the Federal Parliament’s representatives on the Advisory Council of the National Archive of Australia. Kate held many portfolios in Opposition including Information Technology, Sport and Recreation, Manufacturing, Consumer Affairs, Local Government and Health Promotion.

10:35 – 11:50am

Panel Discussion and Q & A ~ Industry Development, Chair: Lisa Andersen, UTS Shopfront  Panel Speakers:  Tanya Bennett, Director, Cultural Diplomacy Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade  Carole Johnson, Founder of NAISDA/Bangarra Dance Theatre , Justin Macdonnell, Executive Director, Anzarts Institute , Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO & Creative Director, Cultural Infusion 

Carole Johnson is a former soloist with NYC’s Eleo Pomare Dance Company and a Juilliard graduate who pioneered dance projects in the USA and Australia. She established NYC’s Dancemobile; was founder of a dance magazine, FEET; and initiated through M.O.D.E. (Modern Organization for Dance Evolvement) The First National Congress of Blacks in Dance -1973 at the University of Illinois, Bloomington Indiana. Recipient of a 1971 NY State Arts Council fellowship, Johnson visited Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana studying their dance development and then came in 1972 to Australia with the American Company. Responsible for establishing contemporary dance among Australia’s Indigenous peoples and beginning processes that fuse contemporary dance with Aboriginal traditional dance, she founded NAISDA Dance College (National Aboriginal/Islander Skills Development Association) and Bangarra Dance Theatre. Johnson received an Australia Council Fellowship to collate historical material for writing about the development of Australian Indigenous dance as performance art. She was installed into the Australian Dance Awards’ Hall of Fame in 1999 and in 2003 awarded the Centenary Medal in recognition of service to Australian society and the Indigenous community through dance. Currently, she is working on ShareDance, a concept to create an infrastructure that promotes international cultural exchange projects between artists of marginalized dance cultures.

16:20 – 17:00 Open Sessions 

Felix Ching Ching Ho  Chinese Theatre in Australia and its future, Emelda Davis  Australian South Sea Island hidden communities, Mayu Kanamori , Mentioning the War: How much an artist may explore to create in multicultural Australia , Maria Okunev  Opera – the art of multi-culture , Rod Pattenden, Oh My God! Religion, art, controversy and Multi-cultural context.  AñA Wojak  We are all boat people, all stories of migration are ones of displacement.

Emelda Davis is the inaugural President and founding member of the Australian South Sea Islanders Port Jackson Limited (“ASSI.PJ”) based in Sydney, NSW. In October  2011 Emelda was elected as the main coordinator for the Wantok 2012 inaugural Australian South Sea Islanders National Conference. To deliver a conference of this enormity reflects her diverse expertise, networks and innovative skill capabilities that stem from extensive experience working in Federal and State Government organisations delivering community development initiatives and awareness campaigns. The ASSI.PJ have been recently elected as the interim National Body that will champion the rights for Australian South Sea Islanders.

17:30 – 18:30

BLACK IS INCLUSIVE… The Carole Johnson story co producer Onyx Management Group & Bowerbird Films (screening trailer)

Black is inclusive reveals the difficult truth behind the struggle to create andmaintain an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander dance school, becoming one of the most powerful and effective voices for change in Australian history. Producers Bowerbird Films and Onyx Management Group

Emelda Davis As the director for Onyx Management Group since 2004 Emelda has worked consistently and diligently in resourcing Indigenous, South Sea Islander and broader community practitioners to deliver projects on a multitude of national and international platforms producing Film, Television, Sports, Events management, Music and Entertainment projects for grass roots, corporate and private sectors.

“Facing the challenge creating the future” 


download: National ASSI Representative Statements

WANTOK 2012  Australian South Sea Islander National Conference

Bundaberg, Qld Australia 6th – 9th April 2012

Day 2 Outcomes: National Representative Body, Vision Statement, Mission Statement, ASSI Values, Purpose, Objectives, Key Focus Areas, Interim Steering Committee, Interim Steering Committee Terms of Reference


The establishment of a national voice for Australia South Sea Islanders (ASSI) is not only right and just, it also represents good practice in terms of harnessing the knowledge and input of those who are most affected by the policies and issues that face ASSI themselves. In order for the new body to be a success it must have the support of ASSI people. That support will only be gained if the structure and position of the new representative body genuinely reflects the status and rights of ASSI – culturally, socially, economically, and politically.

Why is a National ASSI Representative Body important for Australian South Sea Islanders?

It was voted unanimously by delegates at the 2012 Wantok Australian South Sea Island National Conference in Bundaberg, Queensland, 6th-9th April 2012 that ASSI peoples wanted a new National Representative Body.

A new National ASSI Representative Body is critical to provide ASSI peoples with a national voice. Our people have been without such a voice and have suffered as a result.

A new National ASSI Representative Body will enable the goals, aspirations, interests and values of ASSI peoples to be heard in national debate, as well as enabling the diversity of perspectives of Australia’s first peoples to be recognised.

The National ASSI Representative Body will have an essential role in advocating for the recognition and protection of the human rights of ASSI people. It will provide a mechanism to give meaning to and pursue the exercise of our rights. This includes recognising our right to determine our political status and pursue our economic, social and cultural development.

A National ASSI Representative Body can empower and inspire ASSI people by enabling individuals and groups to participate in decision-making processes that affect us. The National ASSI Representative Body will enable us to inform and feel part of policies that affect our lives and those of our families and communities.

The National ASSI Representative Body can inspire change within our families, communities and associations that is informed and driven by ASSI people. We want to work with government and other agencies in designing and applying solutions to the social problems faced by us on a day to day and generational basis. We want to work together to overcome the poverty, inequality and injustice faced by ASSI peoples.

We also see the National ASSI Representative Body as an important mechanism to assist government in shaping its approach and in holding them accountable for service delivery to ASSI individuals and communities. We have a role in partnering with government to ensure that services are delivered in a manner that is meaningful for our communities, and that appropriately recognises our social and cultural issues.

We face challenges that will take at least one and in some cases, two generations to solve, with many of the problems today having been generations in the making. We need to have governments focused over the longer term if we are to see real change in our communities. We aspire to achieve bi-partisan support for addressing the challenges faced by our communities over the longer term. We also note that sustainable progress will only occur when we own our own problems, solutions and control our own future.

The National ASSI Representative Body also has a critical role to play in supporting inter-generational dialogue among ASSI people. This can build a shared journey and vision between our generations to ensure that we plan for the future and nurture our future ASSI leadership. Today’s leaders should aim to leave a lasting legacy for future generations of ASSI people by ensuring that their rights to self- determination and their status as Australia’s First Peoples’ are recognised and protected.

Additionally, the National ASSI Representative Body has an important function in establishing and maintaining regional stability. ASSI people are descendants of the Melanesian and other Pacific Islands – some of Australia’s closest neighbours. The National ASSI Representative Body will be able to provide a significant diplomatic service to:

  1. Its representative members, particularly by providing a focal point in faciliating regional dialogue around the reconnection of families and maintenance of the broader SSI diaspora; and
  2. To the Australian Government and people by providing culturally meaningful input into the multi-lateral relations and supporting the social and economic development of Melanesian and Pacific Island countries.

For the National ASSI Representative Body to contribute in these ways it must always remember that it is accountable to ASSI people. The Body will need to ensure that it operates openly and transparently, maintains high standards of ethical conduct and good governance, and is inclusive for ASSI people.

It will need to be proactive and focused on setting forth a positive vision to improve the wellbeing of ASSI people. It must earn respect among ASSI people rather than demand it.


We are a national body which acknowledges and believes in the unique ways that Australians of South Sea Islander heritage contribute to the broader Australian society. This contribution reflects our South Sea Islander heritage and will be recognised by all Australians because we are of: One Spirit; One Mind; One Voice – commonly seeking prosperity based on respect.


To advance the cultural, social and economic condition of Australian South Sea Islanders through good governance and leadership by:

  • Modeling ASSI values
  • Inspiring  the shared vision of ASSI’s
  • Enabling ASSI people to act
  • Challenging the processes
  • Encouraging and supporting ASSI people
  • Operating effectively and with influence in different cultures


The organisation is underpinned by the ASSI values of:

  • The importance of our unique common cultural heritage
  • The assurance of identity as Australians with South Sea Islander heritage
  • A unity of purpose in constructing a ligitimate and unique place in Australian society
  • The central place of family in building for the future
  • Establishing in our children a confidence in themselves and their right to develop complete personhood
  • A sense of integrity in our interaction with the wider Australian soceity
  • A vision in terms of the potential and unique contribution that Australians with South Sea Islander heritage can make to the wider Australian society


The purpose and role of the National ASSI Representative Body is to:

  • Formulating policy and advice
  • Advocacy, lobbying and diplomacy
  • Ensuring the presence of, and contributing to, mechanisms to monitor and evaluate government performance


(a)     To provide a forum and a voice for the Australian-born descendants of those Pacific Islanders (known as “South Sea Islanders” or in particular, the men, women and children who were also known as “Kanakas”) who were brought either voluntarily or by deception or force to work as indentured labours in Australia before 1906. (The descendants of these people shall be hereinafter called “Australian South Sea Islanders” or by the acronym, ASSI);

(b)     To build a case that shows that members of ASSI have been a disadvantaged group within Australian society for more than a century and to gain official recognition for ASSI by the Australian, State and Territorial and Local Governments, as a disadvantaged culturally and linguistically diverse, minority group of Australian citizens;

(c)     To get legislation passed which will provide the additional assistance necessary to enable the ASSI to attain equality of life with other Australians;

(d)     To establish communication systems and mechanisms for educational purposes, both universal and specialist, to overcome the social and economic disadvantages which now exist in the ASSI community, Australia-wide;

(e)     To provide opportunity for ASSI to acquire land to develop primarily for ASSI appropriate community farms, affordable housing and community living areas, by whatever lawful means necessary or convenient, and generally for the benefit of everybody;

(f)      To stand together with the Sovereign First Peoples of the Country “The Aborigines” and work alongside the Torres Strait Islander Nation and together, known as “First Australians”- and herein appear as “Sovereign Peoples”) in their vision for recognition and equality;

(g)     To employ a mutual understanding of the importance of human dignity and generosity of spirit that potentially can be found within Australian values to foster a respect, inclusion and acceptance of every person into Australian society;

(h)     To research, create and establish entities that are historically, traditionally, culturally, socially, technologically and futuristically appropriate for ASSI;

(i)      In addition to these basic objectives, and to promote and advance the aspirations of ASSI, the purpose of National ASSI Representative Body shall be deemed to include:

i)        Establishing and supporting National ASSI Representative Body Associations, Corporations, Funds, Foundations, Trusts, Schemes, or whatever Bodies or Conveniences are deemed necessary (hereinafter called “entities”) and assisting in the establishment and support of ASSI or ASSI individual entities;

ii)       Using the above bodies to accept gifts and bounties that will advance the objectives of the National ASSI Representative Body;

iii)     Making submissions and proposals for contributions to promote the objectives of and the entities it establishes, supports and assists;

iv)      Establishing a consciousness and a favourable understanding within the broader Australian society of the unique history of Australians of South Seas Islander heritage and their past contribution to Australian welfare and their subsequent social disadvantage by linking into existing networks of the media, in all of its genres, and using all lawful means of raising awareness of all ASSI entities; and

v)       Developing financial awareness and engaging in the investment, borrowing and lending of finances to promote the welfare of ASSI members and ASSI entities.


  • Promote Cultural Awareness within and without the ASSI
  • Reconnection between individuals and families of the SSI heritage in Australia and Vanuatu
  • To work for Legislative Change
  • To develop Corporate Governance and Leadership
  • To work for Justice for who have been disadvantaged by past governmental and societal practices
  • To develop a Sustainable Economic Future for members of the ASSI Associations
  • To gain Access to Governmental Finances and Resources
  • To improve the overall Health of members of the ASSI Associations
  • To ensure the adequate Education of children and youth of the ASSI
  • To improve Housing for members of the ASSI
  • To develop Identity – through historic research and data collection, collation and usage
  • To build Strategic Relationships with all entities who can advance ASSI welfare
  • To improve Employment opportunities for ASSI members
  • To develop an awareness and pride in the unique history and culture of members of the ASSI
  • Identification, preservation and maintenance of the significant cultural heritage sites, artefacts, and oral histories of ASSI people and ensuring that any interested parties have free and unencumbered access and that they are legally protected for future generations of ASSI people
  • Ensuring the ongoing cultural transmission of the oral histories and values of ASSI people so that the youth and the following generations have an awareness of and a deep connection with their heritage and their history


Representatives elected to the Interim Working Committee elected by delegates at the 2012 Wantok Australian South Sea Islander National Conference in Bundaberg include:

  • ASSI PJ Executives: Emelda Davis (President), Danny Togo (Vice President), Mary Day, Shireen Malamoo, Matthew Poll and Donna Carla-Laube
  • ASSI Association Presidents/Contacts:
    • Mathew John Schlieff (ASSIVIA: Brisbane)
    • Meriana Obed
    • Dennis Bobongie (NISSIUP Inc. Kallangur Qld)
    • Jodie Togo/Fiona Mount: (TSSIA: Tweed Heads)
    • Chief Simon Kaukare (Vanuatu Indigenous Descendants Association)
    • Kakae Pakoa (ni-Vanuatu & Australian  South Sea Islander Families, Brisbane)
    • Kel Nagas (B&DSSIAG Inc. Bundaberg)
    • Don Fewquandie (DSSISC Inc. Sunshine Coast)

These are the ASSI Associations representatives that identified themselves at the Day 2 selection of the Interim Working Committee. Remaining ASSI Associations and Presidents who were not present are currently being identified and contacted to ensure that their involvement is included.


The Interim Steering Committee’s task is to:

  • develop a preferred model for a new national ASSI representative body for presentation to the ASSI delegates of the 2013 Wantok National South Sea Islander National Conference; and
  • ensure strong community support for such a representative model.

 Day 2 Facilitator: Duane Vickery

Paper prepared by Duane Vickery with contributions from Tom Dick and Hon Ralph Regenvanu



Australian South Sea Islanders come together in Bundaberg, Queensland, for an historical national conference to discuss the creation of a national body representing their interests.

It’s an emotional time for Matt Nagas, third generation South Sea Islander whose ancestors were brought in to work in Queensland’s plantations. He says there is a need to promote awareness about the blackbirding legacy and the crucial role South Sea Islanders played in the development of the sugar industry.

Wantok 2012  is also attended by traditional leaders from Vanuatu who have expressed support for the establishment of a peak body for South Sea Islanders. Emelda Davis, the conference coordinator,  says the national conference  is an opporturnity  to share stories, reconnect  and move forward together as a community and speak in one voice.


South Sea Islander Conference in Bundaberg this weekend

05 April 2012 , 12:06 PM by David Dowsett

Bundaberg is the host this weekend for the inaugural Australian South Sea Islanders Conference Wantok 2012.

The main purpose of the conference is to establish a national body that will represent one voice to speak out on the pressing needs for Australian South Sea Islanders.

Organizers Emalda Davis and Matt Nagus explained what was lined up…


Conference Delegate & Participant – Duane Vickery

Reasons Why We Are Here…

The first reason is to SHARE. To share is to give. Many people attend conferences to get something out of it, to take something away, which is important. However, in order to take something away from this conference we must first give. A reason for this conference is to share your wisdom, experiences, thoughts, opinions and ideas. By sharing we will connect and bond together. Therefore in order to share I believe our thinking should be; ‘what can I offer, not what can I get or take.’

The second reason why we are here is connected to the first reason, and that’s to LEARN. As people share this weekend take the opportunity to learn. We best learn by respectfully and actively listening to others. We will learn by participating in discussions and sharing opinions, thoughts and ideas, particularly when it comes to discussing how we can effectively progress the work in securing the future of South Sea Islanders living here and abroad.

While we are here to share and learn from each other during this conference, it is important to set the standard as to how we can do this effectively. As we engage and interact with one another and discuss business we need to do so in a RESPECTFUL manner. As South Sea Islanders committed to leading this process of change and development we can best demonstrate respect by ensuring our behaviours and comments are respectful at all times as we passionately engage in discussion and debate about our future.

We all have the opportunity at this conference to provide good leadership where we can ‘model the way’ with appropriate behaviours and attitudes in accordance with the spirit of the conference. We have the opportunity to ‘inspire a shared vision’ for South Sea Islanders by actively listening and sharing and providing constructive comments. We have the opportunity to create a safe workshop environment where ‘others are encouraged to act’ without fear or prejudice, where we can discuss and ‘challenge the process’ in order to improve the way we do business as individual ASSI associations or as a future national representative body. Lastly and most importantly we need ‘encourage the heart’ by respectfully acknowledging the efforts and commitment of people who have devoted their times and means to coordinating this national conference and for participating in a respectful way.

Lastly, as we gather here this weekend I would like you to reflect on our elders and family members who have gone before us. They have left each one of us with a LEGACY to reflect on, a legacy which can inspire us into action.

I am the great great grandson of Stephen Sufalissie aka Toby Stephen (Malaita, Solomon Islands) son of Conson  and Cocol, and Kate Latow (Mellicoola Vanuatu) the daughter of Rangon and Loo (Leo). I am the great grandson of Simon Baggow (Opa/Ambae Island, Vanuatu) son of Boovy and Mavery, and Minnie Pebby daughter of John and Lizzie Pebby. My descendants’ legacy has been passed down to me. In order to leave a legacy for future South Sea Islander generations it is my responsibility and my obligation to continue creating a legacy, a legacy which in part will be created over the events of this weekend.

I respectfully ask that each delegate and participant attending this conference does so with a giving and sharing heart with a genuine desire to build a legacy which will serve the present and future generations of South Sea Islanders while honouring our past and present Elders.

Post a comment we would like to have your feedback!


Sensitisation on South Sea Islanders is a Realisation and Revelation of the Plight, Predicament, Flight and Fight of Australian South Sea Islander. The teachings presented at this one day experiential opportunity will be profound in the sense that you will learn more than history but more so about the Quest of the most oppressed people known to this European Society and how their journey has caused them to overcome.

BSSIAG Cultural Awareness Flyer 2012



“Hai-itera” – ‘they’ll never take your spirit’

Stand the test of being oppressed… It will not show how smart you are, but what you’re made of… Whilst there’s breath, there’s hope, even when it’s stressed and strained.

He learnt this from an early age and deals in it for life. You’re down, but not out… when on knee’s you’re in perfect battle array… a fighting position… pray that God hears you, he seeks your humility…

‘This was a hard lesson for him to learn.’ He steeled himself for the challenge, life sustenance hangs on it. First spoken by an enchanting man, his Grandfather to his son, his Father to him. Search less meaning and beyond defining yet possessing a power that fortifies the mind and guards you against spiritual savagery.

As fear gripped… he needed this. Without it, destruction lay wait at his door and defies him to repel it. Looking him squarely in the eye, don’t blink… you could die… He grew to learn that whilst ‘You’re tired… be cautious as you sleep, for shock freezes as eye’s peep.’ His life’s quest… ‘Must find Hope… in order to Cope.’ ‘If I possess it’…it will unction a supernatural fight that functions life’s natural flight.

‘It may not change you… but it will move you’ ‘It’s your Unction to Function’ A natural life, supernatural strife… an ordinary person, extraordinary dispersion.. This is his…


What would a national body mean ? Dunae has an insight ;-)


ETM Perspectives – Duane Vickery ‘Leadership and Governance’

Help for the disabled…

safety lift at Redfern

Disability Discrimination Commissioner – Graeme Innes with Sydney Lord Mayor – Ms. Clover Moore

Redfern Station services major educational facilities including a leading global university, significant national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander institutions, and, with the creation of CarriageWorks, a major new cultural hub for the City and the Inner West. People with disabilities, older people, parents with young children, pregnant women, people with short term mobility issues through illness or injury, and people with luggage or shopping have great difficulty in accessing or cannot access the Station as there are no lifts to any platform. The inaccessibility of the Station for some community members and the congestion impacts for those who can access the platforms is major economic drain on our communities. There are also significant lost opportunity costs to our communities by the government not addressing access problems at Redfern Station.


Pastor Ray Minniecon – Ambrym Island descendant. Pastor Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gureng Gureng nation of South-East Queensland and also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people with strong connections to his people of Ambrym Island.  Currently, Ray is the Director of Bunji Consultancies. He is a “Vision Keeper” of the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples and Community Chaplain in the Redfern Community – Sydney, a pastor with the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship along with many other development projects.  Ray has a BA in Theology from Murdoch University in Western Australia including Coordinator of the Aboriginal Education Unit, which he helped establish.  He also assisted in developing the Aboriginal Employment Strategy.

Rhys Joseph “Sugar” Wesser - Santo Island descendant. Sydney Rabbitohs – NRL star Rhys Wesser was born in Rockhampton Queensland. At age 16, Wesser was selected for the Queensland Under 17s representative side, seeing his rugby league debut in 1998. He is a proud Australian South Sea Islander and believes ASSI’s should be acknowledged for their forefathers’ contribution to this great land. The Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback retired last year after 218 games. He represented Queensland on four occasions and played in the Indigenous Dreamtime team in 2008.

Duane Vickery – Solomon Island / Vanuatu descendant. Duane Vickery – Corporate Governance (Avondale alumnus of 1993) is the founder and managing director of ETM Perspectives Pty Ltd, a business that provides advice, training and research in relation to Indigenous and South Sea Island affairs in Australia. Following his graduation from Avondale with a Bachelor of Education, Duane completed a Master of Education at the University of New England and worked for the Federal Government in Indigenous Affairs. He founded his business in 2002. Duane is excited for the opportunity to impart his corporate governance and strategic business perspective knowledge and skill base at the Inaugural conference.

Hon. Ralph Regenvanu – ni Vanuatuan. Born in Suva Fiji Ralph is a ni Vanuatu anthropologist, artist and politician. He has been a Member of Parliament, member of Cabinet and was the Director of the Vanuatu National Cultural Council.  He has been a leading figure in Vanuatu’s cultural world, primarily as a promoter of cultural knowledge preservation and sustainable development as a researcher, but also, to a lesser extent, as a painter and illustrator. He has represented Vanuatu and its culture in the international sphere, notably through UNESCO.  As a Member of Parliament, he sought to publicise his activities and discuss political issues directly with members of the public; he also used his parliamentary allowance to help finance student scholarships and youth business projects.


Faith Bandler (Message) – Ambrym Island descendant. Her father, Peter Mussing, had been kidnapped from Ambryn, an island in what was known as the New Hebrides, and brought to Australia, enslaved, to work on sugar plantations. Awareness of her father’s past experience exerted a strong influence on Bandler in her later political activism, as did her own experience of racial exclusion when she was growing up. ALMOST half a century on from 1967, Faith Bandler’s career as a civil rights campaigner has long since passed, but the woman who spearheaded the “yes” vote in the 1967 referendum would be thrilled to see further constitutional change in her lifetime.


Professor Gracelyn Smallwood Vanuatu descendant and Birri-gubba woman, and Elder for the Birri people in Townsville. Dr Smallwood – James Cook University – is a registered nurse and midwife with over 44 years’ experience in Indigenous health. Dr Smallwood was awarded the Queensland Aboriginal of the Year in 1986 and an Order of Australia in 1992 for service to public health, particularly HIV-AIDS education. In 2007 Dr Smallwood has received one of her greatest achievements, the Deadly Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Indigenous Health. She was especially delighted with this award, as it is peer and community judged.


Sonia Minniecon West Ambrym, Lacona Bay – Gaua, East Ambae and Central Pentecost descendant. Blackbird International is a non-profit organisation established to reconnect families and communities of the pacific and Australia who have been separated through the Blackbirding practices of the past.  Blackbird also uses our network of volunteers and supporters throughout the South Pacific and Australia to undertake a range of events and community development activities including: Finding Family Blong Yumi   Blackbird Adventures & Events.  Pacific Aid Projects include our health, student sponsorship, women’s programs and community infrastructure and development projects Before Time Productions.

Matt Nagas Solomon Island, Vanuatu descendant. Matt’s heritage is a third generation of Australian Melanesian. His parents were Gordon & Dixie Nagas, who were Solomon & Vanuatu slave descendants. Matt grew up in Bundaberg, gained his education in Bundaberg. Matt’s has been focused on the recognition and preservation of the historical sites throughout the greater Bundaberg area. With dedication and diligence Matt has organised Historical Tours, which allows each of us to connect with our heritage and honour our ancestors.


Kel Nagas Chairman of the Bundaberg & District Australian South Sea Islanders Action Group, Kel is the son of Gordon & Dixie Nagas, Solomon & Vanuatu descendants of slaves. He grew up in Bundaberg educated in bundy love rugby league. I am now currently chairperson of the Bundaberg & District South Sea Island Action Group. My dream for SSI Australia is challenging the process for our elders.




Vanuatu coat of arms

We recently received a letter of support from the ni Vanuatuan paramount chiefs, you can read it HERE.


The connection of communities in Vanuatu with the South Sea Islanders in Australia is very deep, due to our shared histories going back to the time of the labour trade between our two nations in the second half of the 1800′s. The people and chiefs of Vanuatu support all efforts to give the special circumstances of South Sea Islanders due recognition and acknowledgement within Australia.


Rhys Wesser was asked a series of questions in relation to being an Australian South Sea Islander and what a national body for Australian South Sea Islanders would mean to him?

We are actively seeking your contribution – financial or other that will assist the establishment of a national body that represents the voice of Australian South Sea Islanders.

For you information pack on Wantok 2012 or call m: +61 2 (0) 416 300 946

The question was - What would a national body do for Australian South Sea Islanders who are the descendants of the ‘Blackbiring’ era?

Marcus Corowa is turning heads amongst music fans with his catchy melodies and lyrics from the heart. Gifted with a silky smooth singing voice, Marcus draws on his Aboriginal and South Sea Islander roots, mixing in the sounds of classic RnB to create a soulful, soothing sound distinctly his own.

Growing up in Bowen, a small coastal town in Queensland, Marcus spent his childhood days eating loads of mangoes and playing guitar from the age of 6. He moved from Bowen to Brisbane with his family in his teens, and after finishing high school, he sorted mail at Australia Post. Marcus soon swapped stamps for his guitar and in late 2009 he decided to pursue a career in music.

When Marcus was asked to volunteer his services for Wantok 2012… his words “of course –  its my mob!”