Thursday, 14 April 2016

K is for Kanaka #AtoZChallenge2016

My theme for the AtoZChallenge is exploring the Walker family . Thinking about the family I realised that they were around in Mackay, Queensland in the early days of settlement so I have decided to discover some snippets of early Mackay as it relates to this family and others in my family tree. I hope you enjoy the journey.

K is for Kanaka ...

Kanaka labourers on a Queensland pineapple plantation.
Source unknown - 
According to the Macquarie Dictionary, the word "kanaka", which was once widely used in Australia, is now regarded in Australian English as an offensive term for a Pacific Islander. In part, this is because most "Kanakas" in Australia were people from Melanesia, rather than Polynesia, and included few Hawaiians. The descendants of 19th-century immigrants to Australia from the Pacific Islands now generally refer to themselves as "South Sea Islanders", and this is also the term used in formal and official situations [1].

Kanakas at the Pioneer Sugar Mill [picture] / Reckitt and Mills ca. 1875 PIC Album 261 #PIC/8007/138 NLA
During the late 1860s and early 1870s, "recruiters" ranged the South Seas in search of kanakas to work Queensland sugar and cotton plantations. Former South Seas trader Captain Robert Towns (after whom Townsville is named) began this dubious practice in August 1863 when he imported 67 islanders from the Solomon Islands, New Hebrides (Vanuatu), Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Some were kidnapped ("blackbirded") or otherwise induced into long-term indentured service.

Of the more than 60,000 Islanders recruited from 1863, the majority were to be "repatriated" (that is, deported) by the Australian Government between 1906-08 under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 legislation prompted by the White Australia policy

My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Antoney, made a submission to a Queensland Parliament Inquiry about European labour in the cane fields of north Queensland, stating that European men were unable to labour in the heat. I have currently misplaced his submission :) - my filing system. Joseph employed Japanese labour on his selection "Etonvale" as told by my grandmother. I'm unsure if he employed kanakas.

The Australian South Sea Islander community was recognised as a unique minority group in 1994 after a report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found they had become more disadvantaged than the indigenous Australians[2].

[1] [2] accessed 14 Apr 2016


  1. Such an interesting post! I am enjoying my visits with you. Thank you.

  2. Very interesting. We visited tha area last year and saw the memorial displayed prominently in the middle of Childers, recognising the work done by these people in the surrounding canefields.

    1. Thanks Carmel I believe there is also a memorial in the Mackay region

  3. I seem to remember hearing this term in New Zealand also when young but I could be wrong.
    Visiting from A to Z challenge. Keep posts these interesting pieces. Fran

    1. Thanks Fran i do believe the term was also used in NZ