21 Mar 2011

Vanuatu wants greater rights for descendants of victims of blackbirding

2:41 pm on 21 March 2011

A number of chiefs and politicians in Vanuatu have signed a document calling for greater recognition of the descendants of those who were blackbirded to Australia in the 19th century.

Blackbirding involved recruiting people through trickery and kidnapping to work on plantations in Queensland.

Vanuatu justice minister, Ralph Regenvanu, says they're asking their own government to give those descendants still living in Australia, citizenship to Vanuatu so they can reconnect with their families.

He says Australia should also offer seasonal work opportunities to ni-Vanuatu, who want to work there.

"Our ancestors were taken over to Australia to work in sugar cane plantations as indentured labourers, so very poor conditions and so on - built the sugar cane industry in Australia. The fact that at that time they went over and did this, it's linking it with the fact that today there is the same demand from this side to go over and work in agriculture."

Vanuatu cabinet minister Ralph Regenvanu.