Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901
The Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 was an Act
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 of the Parliament of Australia
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 which was designed to facilitate the mass deportation of nearly all the Pacific Islanders working in Australia. Along with the Immigration Restriction Act 1901
Immigration Restriction Act 1901
The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 was an Act of the Parliament of Australia which limited immigration to Australia and formed the basis of the White Australia policy. It also provided for illegal immigrants to be deported. It granted immigration officers a wide degree of discretion to prevent...

, enacted six days later, it formed an important part of the White Australia policy
White Australia policy
The White Australia policy comprises various historical policies that intentionally restricted "non-white" immigration to Australia. From origins at Federation in 1901, the polices were progressively dismantled between 1949-1973....

. In 1901, there were approximately 10,000 Pacific Islanders working in Australia, most in the sugar cane industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, many working as indentured labourers
Indentured servant
Indentured servitude refers to the historical practice of contracting to work for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities during the term of indenture. Usually the father made the arrangements and signed...

. The Act ultimately resulted in the deportation of approximately 7,500 Pacific Islanders.

History of the Act

Beginning in the 1860s, tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders were brought to Australia as low paid labourers. By the early 1890s, 46,000 labourers had arrived in Queensland, and up to 62,000 labourers arrived in all. Many of these people were forcibly removed from their homes, in a process called "blackbirding
Blackbirding is a term that refers to recruitment of people through trickery and kidnappings to work as labourers. From the 1860s blackbirding ships were engaged in seeking workers to mine the guano deposits on the Chincha Islands in Peru...

", by which Islanders were either kidnapped or deceived into travelling to Australia. They were brought to fuel the growing need for cheap labour in the sugar industry, since white labour was scarce and expensive. The majority of labourers were employed under indentured labour arrangements, whereby they received either no pay or extremely small amounts of pay. By 1880, Queensland legislation prevented Pacific Islanders from working in higher paid jobs in sugar mills and other industrial areas, and limited them to manual agricultural labour.

Provisions of the Act

The Act prohibited any Pacific Islanders from entering Australia after 31 March 1904, and required all those entering before then to have a license. During the year 1902, the maximum number of licences that could be issued was limited to three-quarters of the number of Pacific Islanders who left Australia in 1901. During 1903, this license quota lowered even further, to half of the total departures in 1902. Any person who brought a Pacific Islander into the country contrary to the Act could be fined GBP 100.

Any Pacific Islander found in Australia after 31 December 1906 could be deported immediately by order of the Minister for External Affairs, and any Islander found in Australia before that date, who had not been employed under an indentured labour agreement at any time in the preceding month, could be deported immediately. It was an offence to employ a Pacific Islander in any other way than an indentured labour agreement, punishable by a fine of GBP 100. All such agreements were cancelled on 31 December 1906.
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