Joe Fatnowna, Janet Ambrose, Doug Mooney, and Marion Healy at Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders: A Missing Chapter from Australian History. Picture: contributed
Joe Fatnowna, Janet Ambrose, Doug Mooney, and Marion Healy at Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders: A Missing Chapter from Australian History. Picture: contributed

Mackay’s South Sea Islanders share stories through art

AUSTRALIAN South Sea Islanders in Mackay have been given a platform to tell their history through art.

Cast The Net chairwoman Marion Healy said working with visual artist Janet Ambrose was a good opportunity for her to share her story.

Together the pair created Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders: A Missing Chapter from Australian History, currently open for viewing at the Artspace until November 29.

Mrs Healy said Cast the Net was an association for South Sea Islanders with other Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander members.

The focus of Cast the Net was to improve the rights of the South Sea Islander community and everything that mattered to them.

Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders: A Missing Chapter from Australian History was the culmination of more than two years of work and involved 54 people Mrs Ambrose illustrated.

Mrs Healy said the association was very active in trying to improve the lives of members.

"Areas of support we will assist and provide support in will include education, health, housing, sports, economics, tourism, history, recreation, environment, cultural, youth, spiritual, media, and Pacific Islander connectedness," Mrs Healy said.

After illustrating them, Mrs Ambrose said she would then transcribe their conversations and display them beside the artwork.

Mrs Healy and Mrs Ambrose worked together to record the history of the Australian South Sea Islander community through illustration so Mackay would know of their history.

"I'm very proud of what she (Mrs Ambrose) has done," Mrs Healy said.

"I think our stories are 157 years old, here in Queensland."

She said not everyone in Australia knew the history of the South Sea Islander community.

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Mrs Ambrose and Mrs Healy first met at a project about two years ago before she started her project.

"My fathers and uncles have all passed away nearly 30-40 years ago and they were the spokespeople in our families and our communities and they had the story going forth," Mrs Healy said.

Their passing meant Mrs Healy now had to tell the history and stories of the South Sea Islander community, and working with Mrs Ambrose went a long way to achieving that.

"Coming here to Queensland and finding us as a group of people, (Mrs Ambrose) has been able to take our stories forward and take us along for the journey, telling people who we are and how we came to be here in Mackay," Mrs Healy said.

Mrs Healy said her community was approachable and willing to share their story and would let anyone into their family that made the effort to connect with them.

Conversations with Australian South Sea Islanders: A Missing Chapter from Australian History is on display until Sunday, November 29.

To see the exhibition, visit Artspace Mackay.

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