In 2015, my wife, Helen Stacey Bunton, and I took our exhibition ‘Australian Reflections on Blackbirding‘ to the Vanuatu National Library & Archives in Port Vila. 

VIDEO: Australian Islander Tribute

This video is of a song I wrote about the history of this ‘labour traffic’ from several Pacific islands to Australia. The traffic to Queensland lasted from 1863 to the early 1900s, with about 50,000 islanders taken — many by force or deception — to work the cotton and sugar plantations there on 3-year contracts. The death rate was about 30%, and the practice only ended when the ‘White Australia’ policy led to the deportation of most remaining workers.

The song was recorded at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Port Vila, with local musicians joining me.  It incorporates words & phrases from my great grandparents, Rev Dr John G Paton and Margaret Whitecross Paton, who were passionate campaigners against blackbirding, while the video shows watercolours by my great-grandmother and historic images.