Blackbirding is the practice of enslaving people onto ships, usually through the use of deception and bribery, especially the inhabitants from the South Pacific Islands, and then transporting them to the sugar cane and cotton plantations, particularly in Queensland, Australia, to work as labourers. This practice was not limited to the blackbirding in Queensland, Australia, and had already occurred on the Chincha Islands in Peru. This dreadful practice occurred predominantly between the 1860’s and 1904.
The term “Blackbirding” may have been established directly as a contraction of the phrase “Blackbird Catching”; the word “Blackbird” was an informal word for the local indigenous people. It might have also derived from a previous term, “Blackbird Shooting”, which referred to the homicide of the Aboriginal people of Australia, for the early European settler’s personal entertainment.
Throughout the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, there had been a growing demand for labourers to work in the sugar plantations of Queensland, Australia, so the recruitment of the inhabitants from the South Pacific Islands, otherwise known as “Blackbirding” was created.
Although the Queensland Government endeavoured in managing the forced illegal trading of slaves to work at the sugar cane plantations, by making it mandatory for each ship, associated with gathering labourers to carry a person approved by the Queensland Government. This assigned person was to ensure that labourers were voluntarily recruited and not captured. The new regulation was concluded to be highly ineffective in stopping the forced illegal trading of slaves to work at the sugar cane plantations, as the government observers were easily bribed into keeping quiet through bonus wages and drugging.
Upon reaching the South Pacific Islands, mainly the areas recognised as Melanesia and Polynesia, the blackbirders attempted to persuade the inhabitants of the South Pacific Islands, by utilising deception to get the people to board the ships. The inhabitants of the South Pacific Islands were offered religious services, or something of value, such as fake jewellery to lure them onto the ships. By the time these people had found out that they have been tricked, it was already far too late as they had been chained up and locked away, while the ship had already started its journey back to Queensland, Australia. Those who declined the offer were often threatened to board the ships anyways, though some of the workers boarded the ship at their own free will, after being promised that they will be paid and later on returned to their homes after three years of indentured labour.
The first of the South Sea Islander slaves, consisting of 64 young men, were transported to Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia, on August the 14th, 1863 via the ship “Don Juan”.
Many of the captured slaves did not make the journey to Queensland, Australia, due to the appalling and tattered hygiene and conditions upon the ships....