In tonight's new episode of Who Do You Think You Are? - The program focuses on legendary rugby league player and Australia coach Mal Meninga
Mal has been told his ancestors come from Tanna, now part of Vanuatu, but he’s never visited and knows little about the tiny pacific island. He wants to find out if his ancestors was ‘blackbirded’ as part of the practice of enslaving South Pacific Islanders, often by deception and force, to provide cheap labour on sugar plantations in Queensland.
“The people that were coerced or black birded onto the boats, they never set foot back in their home community again, their home island. So to me, that’s treachery, that traitorous.”– Mal Meninga
Mal goes on a deeply personal quest to discover if he is descended from an indentured labourer in a culture replete with racism, kidnapping and slavery. His search takes him to Tanna island in Vanuatu, where Mal is desperate to find out if his relative was tricked or was looking for adventure and opportunity. Mal must unravel conflicting accounts of why his great grandfather left.
Back in Australia, Mal is confronted by the harsh conditions endured by Islanders working in the cane fields. Faced with deportation the South Sea Islander community rallied to challenge the White Australia Policy. Most were unsuccessful, however in this moving episode Mal discovers why his own great grandfather was granted an exemption.
Who Do You Think You Are? is a fascinating chronicle of the social, ethnic and cultural evolution of Australia and these emotional and personal stories reveal a bigger picture of Australia’s diverse national identity and how Australians have become the people they are today.
Airs Tuesday 4 October, 7.30pm on SBS
The full line-up for series 8 includes:
Tuesday 11 October - Rachel Griffiths
Tuesday 18 October - Shane Jacobson
Tuesday 25 October - Jane Turner
Tuesday 1 November - John Newcombe