Archaeology, collections, and Australian South Sea Islander Living Identities

Project overview

Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSIs) are not Indigenous to Australia, nonetheless they have a distinctive and vibrant Indigenous culture. Their stories involve an ongoing, 150 plus year history of struggle for rights and recognition. The proposed research will weave together histories of ASSI lives and communities in partnership with living ASSI communities, in order to raise awareness about the ASSI past in Queensland society, and to contribute to a sense of ASSI identity in the present and future.

The project will develop and document a participatory research methodology that goes beyond existing models for collaborative research in partnership with Australian South Sea Islander communities, and could be applied to other marginalised communities. The project will bring together the narratives of written and visual documentation, archaeological remains, cultural landscapes, museum objects, and oral traditions. Research for this project takes place within a context of deep collaboration with the ASSI communities involved.

How will the project provide authentic content for educators and educational institutions teaching ASSI history and culture? Major research outcomes include:

  1. an edited monograph co-authored with ASSIs published through the Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, which will be available freely online and as a print edition
  2. online content that will be produced expanding on the existing platforms hosted by the State Library of Queensland and Queensland Museum
  3. an online ASSI Blog and an exhibition that will present the QM ‘kastom’ collection considering research findings, which will travel to regional centres around Queensland and possibly Australia-wide.

Funding / Grants

  • ARC Linkage

Chief investigators

  • Dr James Flexner
  • Dr Helena Robinson
  • Associate Professor Jonathan Pragnell
  • Professor Andrew Fairbairn
  • Dr Francis Bobongie-Harris
  • Professor Thomas Baumgartl

Partner investigators

  • Dr Geraldine Mate
  • Imelda Miller


Single hand of a Young Indigenous girl on the rocks