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Behind the Cane by Michael and Margery Forde



THEMES: Blackbirding, White Australia Policy, Australian South-Sea Islander History and Culture
LENGTH: 120 Minutes
CAST SIZE: 9+ Cast Members
SUITABLE FOR: Senior Years

In the late 1800s Australian ships arrived in the South Sea Islands.


In the late 1800s, Australian ships arrived in the South Sea Islands. They took children off the beaches, thousands of men and women from the islands, and brought them back to work in North Queensland — to cut sugar cane. Then in 1901, under the White Australia Policy, most were sent back to the islands — but not necessarily back to the islands, they came from.

Through music, song, and adapted oral history, Behind the Cane tells the stories of the ‘blackbirded’. The story of the South Sea Islanders, those who left and those who stayed.

Developed from true stories of the Bowen community, Behind the Cane by Margery & Michael Forde is an honest, powerful, and uplifting exploration of an important part of Australian history.

Production History

Behind the Cane was first performed at the Bowen Soundshell, Bowen on July 28, 2011, as part of Queensland Music Festival. The original production featured a cast of more than 100 actors, singers, dancers, and musicians from the Bowen community.

ISBN: 978 1 921390 44 9

Additional information

Weight 0.175 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 0.5 cm


"If there is a negative here, it's the cast's regret that this project, which has involved so many, discovered Bowen's talented dancers, singers, and instrumentalists and reclaimed a community's history, is coming to an end."

The Australian, 2011

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