Aunty Lauretta Forester (née Meninga) & Aunty Diana Fatiaki (her daughter), holding a photograph of Lauretta's mother and father, Edward & Ada Meninga (née Tanna)
Bundaberg, QLD, July 2023
Aunty Lauretta: We lived at Browns Estate (also known as Moke’s Scrub) as children. That’s where the elderly South Sea Islanders lived that were too old to work, mostly men. They were the ones who built those rock walls, like slaves. I don’t remember much of those stories, we were only little and children were to be seen but not heard. My mother was really strict, she used to say, “Run away and play!”.
Some were living in tin sheds [at Browns Estate], they had their nice gardens. They didn’t have much but everything was clean, and they were good cooks. Gran fought for them to get a pension. Well, they called it rations. It was just enough for them to buy their food. Mum kept writing to the Government, and she finally got them some
Aunty Diana: Mum (Lauretta) is going to be 90 in November. Her grandfather and his three brothers came from Tanna Island [Vanuatu] and the story goes that they were tricked onto a boat to work the cane fields and build those rock walls at Bargara and around that area.
They [the children] couldn’t sit with the adults when the Elders were talking when she was a child. I think it’s because of all the hardship they had been through. They didn’t want their kids to go through what they had been through.
Stories were told by the Elders that [South Sea Islanders] were supposed to be sent back and that the captains of the ships were paid to take them back to their own island, but would drop them off somewhere else. But of course, that’s intrusion, so they ended up being killed.