It was only white women who would win the vote in 1905. Racial anxieties ran through from the ruling classes to the labour movement which was notoriously backward in relation to the interests of non-white workers. In 1872 specific racial exclusions from voting of any man who was 'an aboriginal native of China or of the South Sea Islands or of New Holland', even if he had the property qualification, had been introduced. A very few Aboriginal men who had the required property did vote - in the next century the definition of 'Aboriginality' was broadened to exclude people.
In 1894 Thomas Glassey, leader of the Labor MLAs, introduced a private member's bill to enfranchise women - but this explicitly excluded Aboriginal natives of Australia and 'Asians'. Miller's daughter Katie Macfie's pointing to 'the competition of black labour' quelled attempts to raise votes for non-whites in the suffrage campaign.
Deep-rooted patriarchal ideologies meant that the notion of Australia as an egalitarian society would remain a myth through the twentieth century; it had never been a 'paradise' for the (white) working man and this was even less the case for any other workers within Australia's capitalist economy. Racism and economic discrimination based upon ethnicity meant that black women, and non-whites in general, were in an even worse situation; with neither constitutional nor economic equality in sight for Indigenous women, their trafficking into domestic service for a 'lousy little sixpence' or less, or being trapped in even more powerless situations, was widespread.
South Seas Islander Women and Chinese and other
Asian people were legally excluded from voting for decades. Aboriginal women
were deprived of the vote until the mid-1960s. For the campaign of FCAATSI see
Marilyn Lake's Faith. Indigenous women were mainly employed as
drover's boys or domestic servants (see Jackie Huggins and Ann McGrath in Hecate).
Ruby Langford Ginibi from the Bundjalung people whose land extends from Ipswich to northern New South Wales, in her life writing including Don't Take Your Love to Town, My Bundjalung People and Nobby's Story, consistently takes up the racist stereotyping of black women, and the systematic taking away of their children, 'mainly to hide the fact that they were fathered by white men'. In Haunted By the Past, she recounts her struggles as a serial single parent, exacerbated by poverty and racism, and fathers who 'were well and truly there at the making of those kids but not for the responsibility of rearing them.' Domestic service in the homes and families of others also frequently undermined black women's own. While much second wave feminism was about how women could escape their kitchens, many black women had never had one of their own to get out of. Ginibi recalls in Don't Take Your Love To Town 'fantasies about getting a roof over the kids' heads and having taps and floors.'
Aboriginal and Islander people did not get the vote until the 1960s.
In November 1848, 65 Chinese labourers disembarked at Brisbane having been contracted to work for 5 years at six pounds per year and two suits of clothing in the pastoral industry. Figures are unreliable but many more Chinese indentured labourers are known to have followed, and to have also been employed on the canefields. They were controlled by the Masters and Servants Act, which was heavily weighted towards the employers and gave them few rights, as well as the Aliens Act of 1861/1867 that restricted their naturalization and land holding. There was nonetheless periodic uproar about The Chinese Question", especially following the opening of the north Queenland gold fields when many free Cantonese immigrants arrived in Cooktown. Although their coming would in its turn after a while be restricted by a huge Poll Tax, in 1883 Griffith was reportedly only re-elected after making a great effort to look more anti-Chinese than his rival McIlwraith.
With the Sugar Bounty Act of 1905, Chinese were excluded from plantation work, and mainly ran leasehold farms, increasingly becoming preferred employers by Aboriginal and Melanesian workers, with the Sub-Inspector of Police at Mackay reporting: The Chinese offer better wages and what is more pay the aboriginals their wages when due, they also house and feed them well."
Under the Aborigines Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1898, the Chinese had been barred from employing any coloured labour. Finally in 1920, when the Returned Soldiers Association petitioned to have Asiatics excluded from the banana industry altogether and their farms turned over for soldier settlement schemes, the Chinese agricultural industry was totally destroyed" (Cronin, 253).
William Lane published in serialised form in 1888 a novel entitled White Or Yellow? A Story of the Race War of AD 1908. The appearance of the last episode coincided with race riots against the Chinese in Brisbane (see Raymond Evans in Radical Brisbane).
Annie Lane had written in the Worker of 2 April
I would not do a black man harm or a yellow man or a green man
for that matter but I'd sooner see a daughter of mine dead in
her coffin than kissing one of them on the mouth or nursing
a little coffee-coloured brat that she was mother to.
In 1892, WH Browne had written of the black flag, the
yellow flag and the
brown flag waved in the faces of electors" (QPD LXXIII1895)
(Sources: Raymond Evans, Kay Saunders and Kathryn Cronin: Exclusion,
Exploitation and Extermination.
Raymond Evans and Carole Ferrier, eds. Radical Brisbane.)
In earlier times, if a Chinese had the necessary freehold qualifications he could vote in municipal elections and, until 1882, in divisional ballots. In 1876, the Aliens Act prevented even naturalized Chinese from running for either House of parliament, and in 1885 the Elections Act proscribed from voting in Queensland elections any aboriginal native of Australia, India, China or the South Sea Islands." Reinforced in subsequent Elections Acts Amendment Acts 1905 (Qld) and the Elections Act 1915 (Qld) was that no aboriginal native of Asia shall be entitled to have his name placed on an Electoral Roll/ shall be qualified to be enrolled upon any electoral roll."
SOUTH SEA ISLANDERS
South Sea Islanders were barred from voting with the Elections Act of 1885 that said: no aboriginal native of Australia, India, China, or the South Sea Islands is entitled to vote in Queensland elections."
With the institution of the White Australia Policy in 1901, many thousands of South Sea Islander workers who had been brought into the Australian colonies as indentured labour were repatriated from Queensland and northern New South Wales. William Lane's demands for the eradication from the colony of 'every dirty skin, black or yellow' had borne fruit. Almost all the South Sea Islanders were to be compulsorily sent back by 1906, with what the 'Kanakas' called the 'closing' of Queensland .
Since the early 1860s the great wealth of many of Queensland's ruling class, particularly those with interests in shipping and sugar, was built upon the indentured labour of tens of thousands of South Sea Islanders (sixty percent New Hebrideans, from what is now Vanuatu, and thirty percent from the Solomons). These workers were contemptuously called 'Kanakas'. Some were kidnapped, many others induced onto the ships by deception.
Indentured labour had been obtained at first by unsupervised private enterprise recruiting. State control was introduced with legislation in 1868 and 1872, the latter called rather euphemistically the Polynesian Protection Act. With slavery formally ended in the United States following the Civil War, and Britain officially withdrawn from the slave trade at the beginning of the nineteenth century, indentured labour took its place worldwide. And, as Kay Saunders records, with the curtailment of cotton and sugar exports from the United States during the Civil War, 'Queensland was regarded potentially as a second Louisiana'.
Faith Bandler, a prominent Australian South Sea Islander activist, commented in 1977 in the preface to her biographical fiction, Wacvie, 'most Australians do not believe that slave labour was used to develop the sugar cane industry.' It was viewed as that in 1867 when, as Myra Willard documents, many missionaries were denouncing the 'traffic in human beings' as 'injurious to the social, moral and spiritual interests of the natives, as demoralising and degrading to the white men engaged in it, as in short a revival of the slave trade'. Noel Fatnowna in writing his ancestors' history suggests: 'It was like a kind of slavery but legally it wasn't'. Wacvie also depicts the international pressure upon Queensland against the trade; the overseer, Russell Cameron, comments on the annoyance of having to combat 'those nigger lovers from the Mother Country'.
Some of the powerful local actors in this ugly piece of history were James Burns and Robert Philp, John Campbell and his son Edwin, Louis Hope, and Robert Towns - to be immortalised in the name of our northern regional capital. Towns, a Sydney businessman and MLC, had the notorious Ross Lewin as his skipper to 'blackbird' the first workers for cotton growing on Townsvale estate near Beaudesert, forty miles from Brisbane in 1863. John 'Tinker' Campbell, of aristocratic Scots ancestry, arrived from Nova Scotia where, Thomas Welsby reports, he had been 'a most almighty villain, and cheated a proper raft of folk and then shipped himself off to Botany Bay for fear folk would transport him there'. In 1842 he was curing beef on land purchased at Kangaroo Point and the Valley. In partnership with Towns he then raised and dealt cattle and mined coal at Redbank. But they too fell out, in 1865, and Campbell went to Caniapa near Russell Island to manufacture salt. In 1870 he was growing sugar and cotton at the northwestern end of Macleay Island in Moreton Bay, with South Sea Islander workers. The ruins of a wharf built by 'Kanakas' can still be glimpsed beneath the undergrowth at Thompson's Point on the Island. The physical labour of the South Sea Islanders was crucial to the Queensland economy, but official policy was designed to prevent them from consolidating any workplace or industrial strength.
John Campbell's eldest son, Edwin, was foreman of 'Kanaka' labour for Towns; in 1863 he arranged for the first South Sea Islander workers to come to Brisbane on Lewin's ship the Don Juan. Seventy-three of them arrived in August, and Towns gave them twelve month contracts at 10s a month. Despite this highly-exploited labour, Towns' cotton plantation at Logan showed a deficit of 5744 pounds in 1868. 'He failed to form a colony of islanders on his plantations as he could never induce married men to bring their wives', the ADB reports rather naively. 'The Queensland Polynesian Labourers Act 1868 convinced Towns that bureaucratic control had made islanders more expensive to employ than Europeans.' In evidence at the 1869 Royal Commission into the kidnappings in the Loyalty Islands, Towns supported licensing and agents on the ships. His major holding of land in the north may have been connected to a development upon which he reported with delight. Official recognition had been given to his sterling contribution to the colony: 'the Government have paid me the compliment to call the town Townsville".'
Towns had begun his career as an apprentice seaman on a British coal carrying boat. By the age of nineteen he had become a captain and, following several visits to Sydney from 1827, he settled there in 1843. His ships imported labour from Britain and Germany as well as China and India and in the late 1840s he claimed that he had 'saved Moreton Bay from ruin' with imported Chinese labour for the pastoral industry.
James Burns and Robert Philp were both Scots. Philp arrived in Brisbane in 1862 where his father, John, had a lease on the municipal baths, and was later involved in cattle and sugar production. In 1865, Burns and his brother ran the Burns and Scott store in Brisbane; in 1872 they opened another one in Townsville but, standing up badly to malaria, James relocated to Sydney leaving in charge his manager, Philp, who had begun to work for his shipping company in 1874 and became a partner in 1876.
In 1881-4, 'Philp enthusiastically diverted some vessels to the labour trade' but the commercial advantage of this was curtailed by the 1885 Royal Commission. From 1883-5, Burns was engaged in bringing in South Sea Islanders but, 'always uneasy' about it, withdrew when some of the crew of the Hopeful were prosecuted for kidnapping and murder. Burns had a store on Thursday Island and branches in most of the major northern Queensland ports, so that he could participate fully in the exploitation of New Guinea. In 1883 Burns, Philp and Co Ltd was set up, but Philp's speculations would send him broke by the early 90s. In the 1890s 'the firm became the principal instrument for Australian imperialism' in the New Hebrides', the ADB records, culminating in a Royal Commission at which 'rapacity and inefficiency' were alleged.
Philp was Premier between 1899-1903 and 1907-08. When he first won the seat of Musgrave in 1886, he was prominent in the Townsville Separation League and devoted his maiden speech to northern separation. Philp's continuing advocacy of the use of Melanesian workers in the period leading up to Federation led to his being dubbed by the Worker in 1899 'the godfather of black labour'.
But advocacy of the repatriation of the 'Kanakas' frequently
stemmed not from concern for their rights and welfare - but from straightforward
racism. Jean Devanny's 1949 novel, Cindie, is set in the last
period of indenture, the compulsory deportations of the 'Kanakas', many of whom
by then had been in Queensland for years, and wanted to stay. Brisbanites Randolph
and Blanche Biddow have a plantation in the North. Their daughter Irene is involved
in turn-of-the-century Labor Party politics in Brisbane, and inveighs against
'fraternisation with the blacks and Chinese'. 'In town no one associates with
blacks and yellow men'. The Worker of 1898 warned 'the people of Australia...to
take no risk with the filthy Asiatic and South Sea aliens who bring with them
many disgusting vices and habits', while the Bulletin for 13 March
1901 conjured up an 'indescribable vileness that festers in the North' where
'the lowest whites, the aborigines, the islanders of both sexes freely intermingle'.
From Radical Brisbane
Faith Bandler campaigned for the rights of the South Sea Islanders
and by the 1990s, believed that they lacked representation on even any body
representing blacks in Australia. She began to construe them as a 'dispossessed
people' and Elizabeth Evatt was one who responded with a call for affirmative
Their original presence in Australia can hardly be regarded as voluntary: they are not Aborigines, but suffer many of the same discriminations. For further details see Marilyn Lake, Faith.
STRUGGLE FOR THE ABORIGINES' AND TORRES STRAITS' RIGHT TO VOTE IN QUEENSLAND:
Oodgeroo Noonuccal, poet, political activist, artist and educator was a central figure in the movement formed in the early 1960s to work for the advancement of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland.
In an introduction of the 'Indigenous Australian Story' Kirsty Lees in Votes for Women : The Australian Story recounts how clauses in the federal constitution specifically excluded Aboriginal people in 1901. It was a long struggle to change this - 'unable to vote until 1962, Aborigines inhabited a political no-man's land for sixty-one years'. Marcia Langton continues how, in the constitution, Australian nationhood was founded in racism. Since federation, she summarises, debates have focused on how to incorporate Aboriginal people within the framework of the Australian nation - by assimilation, by integration, self-management, self-determination, reconciliation - 'but always on the proviso that they would never be equal.'(Marcia Langton, 'The Nations of Australia', Alfred Deakin Lecture, 20 May 2001).
Faith Bandler was at the founding conference of the national body - the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) held in Adelaide in 1958, an umbrella group for Aboriginal advancement organisations. Assimilation as the dominant policy was being challenged and integration advocated. For further details about the federal council see http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0086b.htm and for a biography of Faith Bandler see Marilyn Lake's Faith: Faith Bandler, Gentle Activist (Crows Nest NSW, Allen + Unwin, 2002).
The Queensland branch of FCAATSI was founded in 1961. Oodgeroo Noonuccal was the Queensland State Secretary for ten years. Her importance as a poet and activist, a leading figure in the community has been recognised - see http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP))82b.htm
And Adam Shoemaker, Oodgeroo: A Tribute, Australian Literary Studies, Vol. 16, No. 4, 1994.
Lees recounts the story of when a delegation from FCASATSI met Menzies, then Prime Minister of Australia, and afterwards they were going to have a drink, Menzies offered alcohol to Oodgeroo, who reminded him that under Queensland law offering alcohol to an Aboriginal Australian was a criminal offence. The state of Queensland and former colony was notorious for its racism - systemic and structural racism cutting through all levels in the community. Savage border conflict continued well into the 20th century, more so than the southern states.
We look forward to the oral histories of the men and women involved in the struggle for the vote in Queensland.
Deb Jordan and Carole Ferrier
Click here for a printer friendly version of the above article by Jordan and Ferrier
Read more in Margaret Reid's article:
Caste-ing the Vote: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voting Rights in Queensland