SOUTH SEA ISLANDER
History proves that the Pacific Islanders who were recruited¹ or blackbirded² from Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Gilbert Islands, New Ireland (Papua New Guinea), and Milne Bay Provinces of Papua New Guinea to work in the sugar plantations of Queensland and New South Wales suffered not only horrendous treatment and working conditions, but also death. Many received a three (3) year contract to work on the sugar plantations and those that did survive when work ceased were either deported back to their native countries or forgotten about. Those that remained in Australia; and their descendent's today, are known as South Sea Islanders³.
However, very little is known about the recruitment of Oceanic labourers from Vanuatu, Fiji, Australia, Hawaiʻi and Peru into New Caledonia. The systematic recruitment of Pacific Islanders and other labourers from these countries began in 1865; and much like the system in Queensland/NSW, labourers would work a 10 hour day on either a sugar/tobacco plantation and/or nickel mine (New Caledonia only) for a period of no less than three (3) years before being deported back to their native countries once work had ceased only to continue working for the wealthy plantation owners on more sugar/tobacco plantations in their own respective countries.
This is where my South Sea Islander story begins.
My great great grandfather on my mother's side; William John McAughey (WJ as he was called), was one of the many recruited to work in New Caledonia as both a short-term overseer of a plantation in Thio and then as a labourer in the nickel mines of Thio, for three (3) years. Nothing more is known about his time there, other than the hard labour endured.
William John MacAughey (later McCaughey) was born into the Kanak village of Saint Paul on 15 April 1889; the second child to William John McAughey and Abigail Alice Hedges and the first child from a non-New Caledonian family to be born into a village there. According to local Kanak traditions, any person born into a Kanak tribe; and their families, are Kanak and considered as native to New Caledonia.
Once work had ceased in Thio, they returned to Australia to begin life in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. By this time, another baby was born; conceived in Thio! Anyway, life wasn't easy to begin with on return; WJ was still contracted to cheap labour at the hands of the wealthy owners, so he laboured away for a further year with many undocumented Kanaks that settled in Australia once work finally ceased; thus making him and the family not only Kanaks, but also South Sea Islanders.
¹ a term used to describe the process of 'volunteering' or being tricked into becoming a cheap labourer.
² a term used to describe the forceable kidnapping of Pacific Islanders who did not want to be recruited.
³ the term South Sea Islander refers to a person from a Pacific Island nation who settled in Australia after others were deported.
My Polynesian story (and my name) begins with a beauty Queen. Leina'ala Ann Teruya; Miss Maui and Miss Hawai'i 1964, is my Hawaiian cousin who visited our great land shortly after her crowning. Of course she was here to do promotional work as Miss Hawaii and for Hawaiian Airlines - after all, she is the face on the tail wing of the plane! But little does anyone know that she ventured into the suburbs to visit my mother (who was living at home at the time) and grandparents, along with her grass skirt, leis for all and crown in tow. My mother recalls Leina'ala (whom she affectionately called Leilani) taking out tins containing her skirt and leis. These were stored in the tins for safety and freshness. My grandfather was beside himself having Miss Hawaii in his home, my mother was so happy to meet her whilst my grandmother was thrilled to see her again, and they all enjoyed their afternoon reminiscing and in awe before Leina'ala had to leave.
When considering all things, your DNA may be the sum of two halves, however it's so much more than this. It's what lies in your heart, what path you wish to take in life, how you feel, your own beliefs, likes, and ways of living that bring about who you are. Whether it lies in the coconut and taro I consume daily, to the stories I tell to the music I listen to or the Ukelele I play; for me, a portion of this equation is as a South Sea Polynesian Islander.