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Blackbirding Exhibition


at the National Library & Archives Art Gallery

4pm, Monday 02 March 2015


 A Gift of Artworks to the People of Vanuatu


Helen Stacey Bunton – Visual Artist


David Bunton – Songwriter

great-grandson of Rev Dr. John G. Paton 

and Margaret Whitecross Paton, missionaries and campaigners against Blackbirding



The exhibition includes Helen Stacey's artworks from the 'Echoes ASSI 150' exhibition at the Scenic Rim regional gallery in Beaudesert, Queensland, 23 Aug to 26 Oct 2013:

•Historic images and texts depicting the ‘recruitment’, life and work on the Queensland plantations, and final deportation of the ‘blackbirded’ labourers;

•Portrayals of John G. and Margaret Whitecross Paton, including detail from a Tom Roberts portrait (c. 1900);

•A ‘Thank You’ artwork signed by visitors to the Beaudesert ASSI 150 commemorations; and other messages;

•David Bunton’s song ‘Islander Tribute’ and his ‘letter to ancestry’ to John G. Paton;

•Two original paintings (on loan) by Margaret Whitecross Paton, of Tanna and Erromanga, viewed from Aniwa (c.1870s).

ASSI: Australian South Sea Islanders




Helen Stacey’s works were created for the ‘ASSI 150 Echoes’ exhibition at the Scenic Rim regional gallery in Beaudesert, Queensland, 22 Aug–26 Oct 2013, to commemorate 150 years since the first island labourers from Vanuatu arrived in Queensland in 1863. Helen is now donating these artworks to the National Archives in Port Vila, which the Hon. Ralph Regenvanu suggested as the most appropriate location. 

The artworks (two of them shown here) bring together historic sketches, photos and texts that trace the experience of islanders who were ‘blackbirded’ to the plantations of Queensland, and document the opposition of David’s great-grandparents, Rev Dr John G Paton and his wife Margaret Whitecross Paton, to this labour traffic.

David Bunton’s song Islander Tribute uses words from his great-grandparents to describe the beauty of the islands and the tragedy of blackbirding, and expresses gratitude for the contribution island labourers and their descendants have made to Australia.