Nicole Lampton has Aboriginal and South Sea Islander heritage: respectively, the Bundjalung and Walawarra tribes of Australia, and the Yakel tribe or Tanna Island, Tafea Province, Vanuatu.
Her grandmother’s father was ‘blackbirded’ from Tanna and taken to Australia to work in the sugar cane industry. Although he often sang of going back home, he never did return to his home island.
Nicole grew up singing gospel music in church and ventured into musical studies at the age of seventeen achieving a Diploma in World Music at the Eora College of Sydney TAFE. Eventually she performed in local music groups in Cairns and Sydney doing Soul, Hip-Hop and Alternative music genres.
An active songwriter, Nicole Lampton has written many original songs relating mostly to life’s experiences and struggles.
The Republic of Vanuatu is located in the South Pacific Ocean approximately seventeen hundred kilometres east of Northern Australia. Its name combines ‘vanu’ meaning land or home and ‘tu’ meaning stand.
Its population is predominantly of Melanesian descent and it has had a complicated colonial history.
Initially claimed by the Spanish in 1606, its many islands were part of French and British colonial empires until gaining independence in 1980. There are six provinces and the southern most Tafea, a name combining the first letters of the province’s main islands of Tanna, Aneityum, Futuna, Erromango and Aniwa.
In Australia’s colonial era of the mid to late 1800s, many South Sea Islanders or ‘Kanakas’, as they were then known collectively and derogatorily, came to Australia from places such as modern day Vanuatu to work mostly in the sugar industry of coastal Queensland. It is estimated that sixty-two thousand men, women and children arrived in the decades between 1863 and 1904. Some were ‘blackbirded’ – brought against their will or coerced – while others came as indentured labourers. The gruelling work they performed was essential to the development of Queensland and northern New South Wales but conditions were often harsh and they were exposed to European diseases for which they had no immunity. Consequently, some areas experienced high mortality rates.
The ‘Kanaka’ labour trade ceased in 1901 after the newly proclaimed Commonwealth of Australia enacted the Pacific Island Labourers Act and the Immigration Restriction Act, which were foundations of the White Australia Policy. Seeing South Sea Islanders as a low paid threat to ‘white’ labour, governments then rounded up and deported many of them in the ensuing years.
Notwithstanding the invasive and draconian methods of the authorities, some South Sea Islanders evaded deportation and remained important parts of the local economies of towns such Bundaberg, Mackay and Tweed Heads, albeit outcasts from mainstream society along with Indigenous peoples. Eventually in 1994 Australian South Sea Islanders were officially recognised by the Federal Government’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission as a unique minority group and in 2000 by the State of Queensland’s Legislative Assembly as a distinct ethnic group.