Party: Australian Solomon Islanders


A significant community of Solomon Islanders has lived in Queensland, Australia since the 1870s. Between 1870 and 1904, 17,756 indenture contracts were issued to Solomon Islanders, probably to about twelve thousand individuals (given that a significant number enlisted more than once), the vast majority of them males. Although a substantial number died, it was a circular migration and most returned home. Some chose to stay permanently, even fighting for the right to remain once the new Australian Commonwealth Government announced its intention to deport all Islanders between 1901 and 1906 as part of the White Australia Policy. About two thousand remained behind in Queensland and northern New South Wales, about one-third of them from the Solomon Islands (the others were mainly from the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu). The majority lived in the Pioneer Valley at Mackay. Most were from Malaita, Guadalcanal and Nggela; a few were from the Western Solomons. The first generation often did not marry and died out in the 1930s and 1940s, but sufficient numbers did marry-either to other Islanders or Australian Aborigines and occasionally Asians-to ensure that the community survived. (Price and Baker 1976; Moore 1985, Moore and Mercer 1978, Moore 1978, Moore 2000a; Mercer 1995)

After the 1900s, all contact with the Solomons was cut until the 1970s, except that the Queensland Kanaka Mission (q.v.) became in 1904 the Solomon Islands-based South Sea Evangelical Mission. The first Australian Solomon Islander to return to look for his relatives was Malaitan Charlie Bobongie in May 1970, seeking information on the Bobongie and Fatnowna families. He eventually was put into contact with John Kei, of Funafou village, Lau Lagoon, Malaita, who said that his father John Manuabu and Bobongie had first recruited together to Fiji. They had returned to Malaita and then Bobongie went alone to Queensland. The next Queensland Solomon Islanders to try to find their relatives were the Viti family from Nggela, followed by Malaitans Willie and Henry Bobongie and Noel Fatnowna and his family, all in 1975. Since then, there has been a substantial reconnection, with a constant flow of visits back and forth, cultural trips and intermarriage. Although it is no longer possible to differentiate Solomon Islanders from the larger group who identify as Australian South Sea Islanders, they were once one-third of the indentured labourers, and Solomon Islanders predominated in the 1890s and 1900s. There are today around twenty thousand Australians who identify as South Sea Islanders, which indicates that there are perhaps eight thousand of predominantly Solomon Islands descent. (NS 31 May 1970, 15 Dec. 1971; Dennis McCarthy to editor, SND 30 May 1975, 16 Dec. 1977; Moore 2001a, 2001b, 2004; Mercer and Moore 1978; Fatnowna 1989; Meninga 1995)

Related Corporate Bodies

Published resources


  • Fatnowna, Noel, Fragments of a Lost Heritage, Roger Keesing, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1989. Details
  • Meninga, Mal, Meninga: My Life in Football, Harper Sports, Pymble, NSW, 1995. Details
  • Mercer, Patricia M., White Australia Defied: Pacific Islander Settlement in North Queensland, Studies in North Queensland History No.21, Department of History and Politics, James Cook University, Townsville, 1995. Details
  • Moore, Clive, Kanaka: A History of Melanesian Mackay, Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies and the University of Papua and New Guinea Press, Port Moresby, 1985. Details

Book Sections

  • Moore, Clive, 'Luke Logomier', in Henry Reynolds (ed.), Race Relations in North Queensland, History Department, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, 1978a, pp. 181-194. Details
  • Moore, Clive, 'The South Sea Islanders of Mackay, Queensland, Australia', in Judith M. Fitzpatrick (ed.), Endangered Peoples of Oceania: Struggles to Survive and Thrive, Greenwood Press, Westport Conn., 2001a, pp. 167-181. Details
  • Moore, Clive, 'Solomon Islands History: Writing With and About Malaitans at Home and Abroad', in Brij V. Lal;Peter Hempenstall (ed.), Pacific Lives, Pacific Places: Changing Boundaries in Pacific History, Journal of Pacific History and Australian National University, Canberra, 2001b, pp. 117-130. Details


  • Solomons News Drum, 1974-1982. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Mercer, Patricia M., and Moore, Clive, 'Australia's Pacific Islanders, 1906-1976', Journal of Pacific History, vol. 13, no. 1-2, 1978, pp. 90-101. Details
  • Moore, Clive, ''Good-bye, Queensland, Good-bye, White Australia; Good-bye Christians': Australia's South Sea Islander Community and Deportation, 1901-1908', The New Federalist, no. 4, December, pp. 22-29. Details
  • Price, Charles, and Baker, Elizabeth, 'Origins of Pacific Island Labourers in Queensland, 1863-1904: A Research Note', Journal of Pacific History, vol. 11, no. 1-2, 1976, pp. 106-121. Details