Tag Archive: ASSIPJ

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…


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
email:assi.pj@gmail.com 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!”

Another South Sea Islander Story…

Phyllis Corowa one of the many decendants of the original South Sea Islander People brought to Australia to work in the cane fields.Phyllis Corowa’s father and grandmother were taken from Vanuatu to work on a Queensland sugar plantation during a drive to gain cheap labour between 1863 and 1904.

Today, the 92 year-old sits in the shade at her Chinderah home. She suffers dementia now, but in her younger days she spoke out about the injustice done to her people.

She lives not far from the burial ground historically significant as the last resting place of many South Sea Islanders who were brought to the east coast of Australia. You can read the full story HERE

What does recognition mean to you?

We asked Matt Nagas

Wantok 2012 – Australian South Sea Islanders National Conference.

6th – 9th April 2012 at the Bundaberg Civic Centre.

Register NOW!