Australian South Sea Islanders

Queensland State Archive (QSA) holds archival information about Australian South Sea Islander people that includes records on recruitment, transportation and arrival in Queensland, registers of agreement, employment, education, legal issues, health and medical, deportation and repatriation, those who remained in Queensland after 1906, miscellaneous records and maps.

The first South Sea Islanders to arrive in Queensland were brought in the ‘Don Juan’ which arrived in the Brisbane River in August 1863. South Sea Islanders were first brought to Queensland for work in the cotton fields. However, by 1868 South Sea Islanders were mainly recruited to work on sugar plantations.  Between the years 1863 and 1904 an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 South Sea Islanders had entered Queensland. Recruited mainly from the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and the Solomon Islands, the contribution of these South Sea Island labourers to the economic development of Queensland was an important one. They played a significant role in the development of sugar industry and also contributed to the development of farming, grazing and the maritime industry.

How do I find the records?

You can view our records on Australian South Sea Islander people by searching our records if you know the name and location of the person you are looking for. For more information on searching indexes, see Start your research.

Australian South Sea Islander records

Read the Brief guide: Australian South Sea Islander records, which contains information created by the Inspector of Pacific Islanders and other agencies, as well as information on Legislation.

Australian South Sea Islanders 1867-1908

Search the Index to Australian South Sea Islander records compiled from a wide variety of records including Immigration Department records, Inspectors of Pacific Islanders across Queensland, the Crown Solicitor’s Office and the Chief Secretary’s Department.

Coloured labour and asiatic aliens in Queensland 1913

Search the Index to coloured labour and Asiatic aliens in Queensland 1913 which lists people who lived in various Queensland Police Districts including Townsville, Normanton, Roma, Rockhampton and Toowoomba.

Search the catalogue

ArchivesSearch provides access to QSA’s collection of records, including documents, letters, land orders, maps, plans and images. For help searching, read the ArchivesSearch help guide.

Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?

There are a number of reasons why you may not find a record at QSA.

  • Some records have not survived.
  • Some records may have restricted access.
  • When searching for names please be aware that some South Sea Islanders had their names changed by Government Agents and Recruiters [no references to the former family or tribal name may be found], spellings may be phonetic or anglicized.
  • Asiatic and Indian names have not been anglicised and appear as recorded in the original documents.
  • No clear family name: the full name is entered as the Family name, e.g. Etero Kimino or Wong Ying You.
  • Anglicised names have been entered as given names with other names entered as surnames, e.g. Chin Hoy, Charlie.
  • Errors from the original document have been corrected where obvious, e.g. housewhife becomes housewife or 18933 becomes 1893.
  • The name may have been incorrectly indexed as the handwriting is sometimes difficult to read. Clerks often wrote the names as they heard them so think about names being spelt as they were heard.

Contact us

Contact us if you need further help.