This thesis is an examination of the way that spaces considered ‘marginal’ by settler society reflect and embody the construction and contention of race over time. It is primarily focussed on the riverbanks and rocky hillsides occupied by the Australian South Sea Islander community and others considered ‘alien’ during the White Australia era of the first half of the twentieth century. To fully explore these spaces, it also covers a broader time period from the first intervention of a white settler on Yuibera land in 1860 to the contemporary landscape in Mackay in the 2010s. Focussing on the area known as the Pioneer Valley around Mackay, Queensland, the first part of the thesis demonstrates that communities considered ‘non-white’ existed within a racialised settler-colonial landscape. It shows how long-term, non-Indigenous spaces were targeted and framed by settlers in specific ways relating to these categories, and were also influenced by the tropical landscape and the uneven and incomplete roll out of settlement in that context. Using a range of sources including an archive of Informal Leases never before analysed, the second part of the thesis also uncovers the different ways that South Sea Islander, Chinese and other communities read, negotiated and adapted to official and implied forms of racialised space. It demonstrates how those communities did this through direct protest, autonomous networks, and alternative pathways and maps, particularly utilising what are termed here ‘stubborn tropical places’. Through their daily actions and adaptations, these communities pushed against settler entitlement to space in tropical Queensland. This thesis finds that rather than simply living on the margins of settler society, excluded communities created spaces which allowed for their survival and persistence in an era where settlers no longer saw a place for them. The result is that this thesis presents a previously unexplored history of subversive spaces, showing how through an unequal exchange with settlers, South Sea Islanders and other non-settler groups have shaped the historical landscape and present spaces of Queensland
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Department of Languages, Histories and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
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