Australian MP Steven Andrew, from Queensland, had the opportunity to meet with Ambaens living in Port Vila at the Chief’s Nakamal during his recent visit to Vanuatu.
In his remarks he says it was an honour and a privilege to return to his home island of Ambae.
He says over the next few months he looks forward to working with the Ambae MPs to work out some agreements between the Vanuatu parliament, Queensland State parliament and the Australian Federal Parliament.
He says during his visit to Ambae he saw a lot of vacant homes due to the volcanic disasters which he finds sad, he also says that despite that, people of Ambae have bounced back after the disaster and it comes to show that they will always bounce back just like him and other descendants in Queensland who have bounced back and returned to visit the homeland.
He further explains that the spirit of the people remains and that in Queensland, even after 150 years that same spirit remains within the descendants of those that were taken during the Blackbirding era.
Even after five generations their ancestor’s custom, ways of thinking and living still lives within their blood up to this day.
MP Andrew also says that moving forward, they have a lot of plans and that they are working out ways in which they can deliver these plans to the people of Ambae and Vanuatu as a whole.
The MP says the Australian and Queensland State Government do no seem to realise the contribution that Ni Vanuatu (dating back to blackbirding days) have done for Australia despite his ancestors being taken away from their families and being made to work in tough situations and a tough environment.
He says the 65,000 odd men and women from Vanuatu that were taken to Queensland are the reason why Australia’s sugar industry is really successful today.
The MP says many of them were buried in the field where they fell from working too hard. Through this hardship they gave Queensland a multi-million-dollar industry which it has today and creates 45,000 jobs directly and indirectly for Queensland.
He says it is such an amazing feat for a small group of people who worked without machinery or any modern equipment. Despite not owning any cane farms today they do not hold back to their love for the land both here in Vanuatu and in Queensland.
Speaking as a leader, MP Andrew says that it is essential that they open up bilateral agreements both at federal and state level. Australia and Vanuatu are neighbouring countries and Ni-Vanuatu contributed a lot to establishing a multi-million industry so Australia should return the favour.
A few of the 65,000 indentured labours who were taken to Queensland came from Ambae and the MP says it is only fair that both state and federal governments embrace the Vanuatu culture and embrace the situation of the volcanic disaster on Ambae and contribute more to help more to get the kids back home, help them re-establish their education and health facilities to help them move forward.
He says these may be little things which are taken for granted in Australia, however he said it is essential to assist the Vanuatu government in making sure there is a better outcome for the volcanic disaster victims.
MP Andrew is a fifth generation descendent of the Qwero family of West Ambae, whom a lot were taken to Queensland.
After the 2017 Queensland election, he is the MP of the constituency of Mirani which takes in a few of the small towns between the Queensland coastal cities of Mackay and Rockhampton, a place where a lot of the people were black birded to.
MP Andrew is part of the opposition block and is also the only MP from Paulin Hanson’s One Nation Party in the Queensland State Parliament whose government side is run by the Australian Labour Party.