ScoMo’s slavery denial a ‘kick in the guts’
A MACKAY South Sea islander descendant has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to come to the region and learn about the history of blackbirding across Macaky.
Mackay and District Australian South Sea islander Association president Starrett Vea Vea was shocked by the PM's "disheartening" statement on June 11 to 2GB.
"What he said was a kick in the guts," Mr Vea Vea said.
"It's being disrespectful to our ancestors but also to our descendants throughout Australia."
Mr Morrison said he believed some activists, some of who were demanding the removal of Hyde Park's Captain James Cook statue, were taking advantage of the protests to push political agendas.
"When you're talking about someone like Captain James Cook, in his time he was one of the most enlightened persons on these issues," Mr Morrison said.
"Australia when it was founded as a settlement, as New South Wales, was on the basis that there be no slavery.
"And while slave ships continued to travel around the world, when Australia was established, yes sure, it was a pretty brutal settlement … but there was no slavery in Australia."
Tens of thousands of people were taken from the Pacific Islands to work in the region's agricultural industry, sometimes by force.
"I don't begrudge the PM for that statement - it's education that has let us down," Mr Vea Vea said.
"He ought to educate himself and teach himself the true history."
According to Mr Vea Vea, school curriculums have provided little education about Australian South Sea islander history.
"Our forgotten people's history was only given in Year 9 in a snapshot," he said.
"They call it 'indentured labour' - that's just another word for slavery.
"At the end of the day, you signed up for three years and you were owned by that plantation owner … working sun up to sun down, seven days a week.
"I would like our PM to come up to our community and talk to descendants of Katie Maralla who was kidnapped from the islands and brought over here as a 14-year-old girl.
"She ran away and to keep her from running, they put leg irons on her. That's not working of your free will."
Mr Vea Vea said there were Mackay secondary teachers going out of their way to reach out and teach Australian South Sea islander history.
"Some of our high schoolers are more educated about the real history than our PM," he said.
"John Mackay was a blackbirder - people don't know about that. We can't change who he was, just acknowledge that he was one."
In Mr Vea Vea's opinion, the way to move forward was to have open discussions about Australia's history.
"The past may dictate who we are but we get to determine our future."