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Skip Navigation LinksQueensland State Archives > Researching the archives > Resources for researchers > Australian South Sea Islander resources

Australian South Sea Islander resources

Australian South Sea Islanders are a distinct cultural group who are the descendents of predominantly Melanesian people brought to Queensland between 1863 and 1904 from the Pacific Islands.

Queensland State Archives holds various records within its collection relating to Australian South Sea Islander people from their first arrivals in the early 1860s to their subsequent repatriation or settlement in Queensland, particularly in the first two decades of 1900s. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization logo

Queensland State Archives successfully nominated 67 items relating to Australian South Sea Islanders for inscription on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register. The nomination focused on the public records created by the Inspectors of Pacific Islanders and Immigration agencies plus the Health Officer’s report for the first voyage that brought South Sea Islanders to Queensland in 1863. View the list of nominated records (100KB) that includes links to digital images of the records.


The following resources have been developed to assist researchers with discovering the history of Australian South Sea Islanders in Queensland and with accessing the records held at Queensland State Archives:


Guide: Australian South Sea Islander records (PDF, 117KB)

This guide lists Queensland State Archives records relating to Australian South Sea Islander people. The records cover the areas of immigration or recruitment, employment, repatriation, exemptions, education and settlement of the Australian South Sea Islander people in Queensland. The guide also outlines relevant Legislation.




Online index: Australian South Sea Islanders 1867-1908 

An online index compiled from a wide variety of sources including Immigration Department records, Inspectors of Pacific Islanders across Queensland, the Crown Solicitor’s Office and the Chief Secretary’s Department.




Online index: Coloured labour and asiatic aliens in Queensland 1913

An online index compiled from Item ID 862496, Correspondence created by the Chief Secretary's Office.





Online exhibition: A Unique History, Australian South Sea Islanders in Queensland

Image Queensland virtual exhibition featuring records relating to the recruitment, indenture, deportation and repatriation of South Sea Islanders and, more recent, enrolment and school records.





Immigration stories, Australian South Sea Islanders 

Banners created for Harmony Day highlighting the history of Australian South Sea Islanders in Queensland.





Unless otherwise noted, the following legislation is Queensland State legislation:


Polynesian Labourers Act 1868
Dealt with licenses to import, guarantee of native return, number to be recruited, scale of provisions, and prohibition of liquor.

1872​ Pacific Islanders Protection Act 1872 and 1875 
Amended in 1875. Protection of Pacific Islanders from kidnapping and other criminal offences.​
1880​ Pacific Island Labourers Act 1880
Repealed the Act of 1868. Provided for regulation and control of the introduction and treatment of labourers from the Pacific Islands. Limited the age recruits. Return to proper islands. Provision of medical treatments. Provision of rations and dress allowance.​

Pacific Island Labourers Act 1884
More restrictive legislation confining labour to unskilled agricultural pursuits. Crews to be paid wages. No fire arms to be supplied to islanders. Limit recruiting operations further.

1885​ Pacific Islanders’ Employers’ Compensation Act 1885
Compensation to employers whose employees had returned by order of the Government.​
1886​ Pacific Island Labourers Act 1880 Amendment Act (1885)
Prohibited further importation of labourers after 31st December 1890.​
1887​ Pacific Island Labourers Act 1880 Amendment Act (1886)
Amended the definition of Pacific Islanders.​
1892​ Pacific Island Labourers (Extension) Act of 1892
Repeal of prohibition.​
1901​ Immigration Restriction Act 1901
Commonwealth. Received Royal Assent on 23 December 1901. It was described as an Act “to place certain restrictions on immigration and to provide for the removal from the Commonwealth of prohibited immigrants.” (ref: Dept Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Fact Sheet 8)​
1901-1906​ Pacific Islands Labourers Act
Commonwealth. Decreed that there should be no further entry of Islanders after 31 March 1901. After that date deportation was to follow, with some exemptions.​
1913​ Sugar Cultivation Act 1913
Designed to prohibit the employment of ‘certain forms of labour in the production of sugar’.


Last updated 16 August 2013
Video on the historical significance of the records in the Australian South Sea Islander collection and how to research them
*For full screen viewing, we recommend changing quality to 720p (use icons that appear on bottom of video)​
Map of Oceania from the Geographic Guide web site
Geographic Guide map representing islands from which South Sea Islanders came to Queensland

View larger map

The South Sea Islander people came from over 80 different islands. New arrivals from 1871 to 1890 represented the islands of Loyalty, New Hebrides, Banks, Torres, Santa Cruz and Solomons, and the New Guinea islands. In the nineteenth century the majority of South Sea Islanders in Queensland came from the New Hebrides and the Solomon Islands.