Between the years 1840 and 1915 approximately 393,000 Pacific Islanders enlisted as colonial contract labourers making the region, given its relatively small population, one of the largest labour reserves in the nineteenth-century world.1 Of this number, 62,475 indenture contracts were entered into by Melanesian labourers in Queensland,2 the vast majority being recruited to work in the colony's sugar industry. The Kanaka's or "boys",3 as they were pejoratively labelled by most white Australians, were in European terms, one of the most exploited sections of the workforce in colonial Australia4 and it was their toil in the canefields of North Queensland that laid the basis for one of Queensland's most important agricultural staples.
Commencing in the 1863 Melanesian labourers were introduced into the colony of Queensland in significant numbers, but opinion over their presence was hotly disputed. Plantation owners and their supporters argued that without a supply of cheap and reliable labour, the sugar industry would be unable to survive in the competitive world market, which would be devastating for a considerable portion of the colony ' s economy . The Pacific Islander, they argued, recognised the benefits of living and working amongst "civilised" Europeans5 as witnessed by their voluntary engagement for labour in the Queensland sugar industry.
Arrayed against the "pro- coloured" labour lobby were missionaries, humanitarians such as the vociferous Aboriginal Protection Society, large numbers of rural and urban workers6, and leading Liberal politicians. They argued that the major reason for the presence of Pacific Islanders in Queensland was that they were physic ally kidnapped and cajoled at their islands by the labour recruiters, who forced them into engaging for labour in the colony. The majority of the "anti-coloured" labour faction thought that the introduction of Melanesians could only corrupt the fundamentals of British Democratic traditions and destroy the simple lifestyles of "carefree natives." ...........