HISTORY DISCOVERED: Ruth O’Dowd from The Gift Tree is raising funds for the Blackbird International organisation.
HISTORY DISCOVERED: Ruth O’Dowd from The Gift Tree is raising funds for the Blackbird International organisation. Rob Williams

Story of Australia's South Sea Islanders stirs Ruth

IPSWICH business owner Ruth O'Dowd was so shocked by the story of Australia's South Sea Islanders that she decided it was time to take action.

A self-proclaimed supporter of multiculturalism in Australia, Ms O'Dowd was introduced to the Blackbird International organisation recently and learned of an often untold chapter in Australian history.

As part of a recruiting program that lasted from the mid-1800s to early 1900s, 60,000 islanders were taken from 80 Pacific islands.

They were brought to Australia to work on the canefields of central and north Queensland. "When I came across this Blackbird organisation and learned about what happened, I thought it was just crazy that this happened in Australia," she said.

Blackbird started in 2003 to help Islander families reconnect with lost relatives in the Pacific.

Blackbird fundraising helps communities through student sponsorship, sport and cultural activities, education supplies, village infrastructure and micro business development.

Ms O'Dowd will host Blackbird International's Tropical Christmas Celebration at The Gift Tree, 81 Downs St North Ipswich, on Saturday, from 10am to 3pm.