Blackbird: The Story of the Kanakas is a personal account of the use of South Sea Islanders as slaves in 19th-century Queensland featuring interviews and contemporary recreation of a shocking true story of kidnapping and murder in the canefields.

A multi-platform web series written and Directed by Gemma Tamock and launched in 2018 on the Hitnet platform of touchscreens located in 80 communities around Australia.


In 2012, Chief David Richard Fandunamata came to Australia and apologised to the local aboriginal community of Bundaberg for the murders his ancestor had participated in, more than a century before. He had been blackbirded from Vanuatu to work in the lucrative sugar industry and in addition to this back-breaking work, he had been handed a club by his overseers and ordered to kill the local indigenous people. The Paramount Chief had refused, but his warriors carried out the bloody attack. For his refusal, the Paramount Chief was whipped and only just managed to return to his homeland before dying of his wounds. Chief David’s interview of this important and heartbreaking story is interspersed with contemporary recreations and footage from his visit to Bundaberg.


This web series was conceived during 2013 – the year that marked the 150thanniversary of the first South Sea Islanders brought to Queensland and there are a number of exhibitions and celebrations planned during the second half of 2013 and into 2014. My previous documentary Whitewash was programmed for the ASSI 150 events, shown in venues including the Queensland Museum.