Everything old is new again it would seem.
Blackbirding is the coercion of people through trickery and kidnapping to work as labourers. From the 1860s, blackbirding ships in the Pacific sought workers to mine the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands in Peru. In the 1870s, the blackbirding trade focused on supplying labourers to plantations, particularly the sugar cane plantations of Queensland and Fiji. The first documented practice of a major blackbirding industry for sugar cane labourers occurred between 1842 and 1904. Those "blackbirded" were recruited from the indigenous populations of nearby Pacific islands or northern Queensland. In the early days of the pearling industry in Western Australia at Nickol Bay and Broome, local Aborigines were blackbirded from the surrounding areas.
Blackbirding has continued to the present day in developing countries. One example is the kidnapping and coercion at gunpoint of indigenous people in Central America to work as plantation labourers in the region, where they are exposed to heavy pesticide loads and do backbreaking work for very little pay. (from Wikipedia)
I have known about blackbirding. I grew up in the North Queensland town of Bowen. Bowen - as is the case with many coastal towns in Queensland - had/has a significant population of Pacific Island descendants. My best friend at school was a Vanuatu descendant. Her cousin is a good friend as well. So when I read headlines such as this below it brings a shiver to my bones.
....and if you don't know how close to home this is for Victorians>>>
Australia welcomes island fruit pickers
A trial seasonal workers scheme will aid farmers short on produce pickers in New South Wales
Atrial Federal Government seasonal workers scheme begins today in Australia, with 50 Tongans flying into the Riverina and Robinvale areas of New South Wales to aid farmers with fruit picking.
The workers will remain in the region for seven months, and will be joined by pickers from Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea when labour hire companies have completed all requirements, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Following the trial period, which will see farmers pay for half of the workers' air fares, 2,400 seasonal work visas will become available from July.
"The first group will fly to Sydney and they will help with the harvest of almonds at Robinvale," said Sitiveni Finau, Tonga's Deputy Secretary (labour division). "We will have more workers coming later."
If you are not aware of the modern forms of slavery,
particularly the forms of slavery taking place in modern democratic nations like Australia,
And please be aware -
slavery is alive and well and living in Australia
Australia is not immune to the risks of labour trafficking; labour shortages, sector tolerance to illegal work practices and the recruitment of vulnerable workers can result in labour exploitation (David 2010). The horticultural sector in Australia is experiencing some of these risks and Pacific Islanders are a vulnerable migrant group working in this sector.
Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme (PSWPS) aims to create a safe pathway for unskilled or low-skilled Pacific Islanders to temporarily work in Australia’s horticultural sector. Recent research by the AIC suggests that addressing labour trafficking does not just involve prosecuting the most extreme cases but should also have a focus on preventing and reducing a broader spectrum of practices that create an environment that is tolerant, or even encouraging, of exploitation (David 2010). While the PSWPS is not an anti-trafficking program, it has been designed and piloted to prevent a broad spectrum of poor or illegal labour practices and therefore may assist to prevent labour trafficking in Australia and regionally. This paper provides an analysis of the PSWPS and examines emerging evidence about how the program manages risks of exploitation of overseas temporary workers from the Pacific Islands.