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The ASSI 150 – Townsvale Wayfinder

ASSI 150 logo2013 marks 150 years since the first South Sea Islanders were brought to Queensland. Their Australian descendents are now officially recognised as Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI).  A consortium of ASSI, south east Queensland (SEQ) local government and cultural organisation representatives organised a number events and projects to acknowledge the ASSI people and promote their unique culture, hidden and difficult heritage and valuable contribution.

Gleneagle on the northern boundary of the Scenic Rim is of great significance in these commemorations. The ‘This Is Our Story’ project traced the steps of the first group of South Sea Islanders who were brought to the Townsvale Cotton Plantation (occupying parts of the locations of Gleneagle, Veresdale and Woodhill) as indentured labourers in August 1863 and their connections to the Beaudesert district and the people who live here today.

2 metre long and 200 year old ironbark log

2 metre long 200 year-old silver-leaved ironbark log

A five-metre high sculpture is being created to commemorate and celebrate this shared history of ASSI, the Mununjali community and landholders past and present of the Gleneagle and Veresdale areas.

As part of Scenic Rim Regional Council’s artist-in-residence program BADCAP has commissioned internationally recognised artist Kakae Pakoa to transform a fallen two-tonne Ironbark log into an imposing piece of installation art at Everdell Park, Gleneagle.

BADCAP have worked in partnership with Scenic Rim Regional Council to develop the project as a permanent reminder of the historic connection between the Scenic Rim region and the arrival of the first South Sea Islanders to the area as indentured labourers 150 years ago, commemorated during ASSI 150 events during August 2013.

Artist Kakae Pakoa and project

Kaka Pakoa (2nd from right) with project team at the start of work

The community commemoration day with ceremonial walk and picnic was held at Gleneagle will on 24 August 2013 (See video)

The log itself is estimated to be 200 years old, predating the arrival of these first labourers to work on the Townsvale cotton plantation by some 50 years.

Over December 2013 – January 2014, Kakae carved and engraved depictions of the ASSI cultural and historic experience into the log. The completed artwork was installed by Scenic Rim Regional Council in Hopkins Park, Veresdale.

The sculpture was unveiled at ceremony on 4 October 2014 involving Australian South Sea Islanders descendents, local Mununjali elders and descendents of the early settlers.

Detail of engraving on irnobark log

Detail of engraving on irnobark log

This important initiative has been funded by Scenic Rim Regional Council and Arts Queensland through the Regional Arts Development Fund.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 7.54.23 pm

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 7.55.14 pm

In 2020 Scenic Rim Regional Council organised for the completion of the original concept proposed by Kakae Pakoa involving: a yarning circle, an information board, the bronze casting of the hands of the elders and the formation of a concreted floor incorporating a large shell design favoured by South Sea Ilsanders. These works required nearby relocation of the artwork and the addition of emblematic clamps that protect the artwork from splitting.

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2 Comments
  1. Joe sproats permalink

    Love what you are doing but you are not accurate on the anniversary date. The first South Sea Islander slaves arrived in NSW in 1847 at Eden and were sent to the Monaro to work the sheep stations. Please have the correct facts because this is my family heritage. If you want more information in this I am happy to supply it

    Regards joe sproats

    • Hi Joe – Thank you for your comment. We posted what was celebrated in 2013 according to the organisers. Taking on on board your advice – we have adjusted the opening statement to ‘2013 marks 150 years since the first South Sea Islanders were brought to Queensland’.

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