The descendants of Melanesians and Polynesians brought to Australia in the 19th century as little more than slave labour will form a new national organisation to push an agenda which includes reconciliation and closer ties with their ancestral homes.
More than 30,000 descendants of islanders kidnapped or coerced from Vanuatu, Niue, the Solomons and New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands are estimated to live in Queensland, with smaller numbers in New South Wales.
Their cause is also being pressed by Vanuatu, which has floated a plan to give Australia's South Sea Islanders dual nationality and has urged Canberra to provide its citizens with seasonal work visas as reparation for the human trafficking, known as "blackbirding", that underwrote Queensland's early agricultural development.
Justice Minister Ralph Regenvanu, part of a Vanuatu delegation which joined descendants to forge a new organisation, this year described as "racist" schemes that allowed working holidays for European backpackers but blocked seasonal visas for Vanuatu citizens.
The blackbirders began their trade in 1863, when New South Wales merchant and politician Captain Robert Towns imported labourers from the New Hebrides and the Loyalty Islands for his Logan River cotton plantation.
Business boomed for Queensland's sugar industry, with as many as 62,000 islanders brought into Australia over the next 40 years, mainly as indentured labour.
Islanders also went to other industries - including sheep and cattle stations and fisheries - and to work as servants for the affluent.
Some left their homes willingly, but most were either forced or tricked on to the blackbirders' ships.
Some blackbirders kidnapped entire villages by luring them on to their ships with trading goods or fake church services.
Conditions were harsh. The death toll on board overcrowded ships with poor food and sanitation was high, with illness and premature death common on plantations and farms.
British and Queensland colonial administrators tried to control the trade, restricting islanders' employment to "tropical and semi-tropical agriculture" in 1880 and passing acts to license and regulate blackbirders, and - later - to improve conditions.
When the trade finally ended, more problems were in store.
About 10,000 islanders remained in Queensland, most working on farms but with some owning their own properties or running businesses.
Federation in 1901 hit them hard.
With the new nation came the White Australia Policy and the Pacific Island Labourers Act which banned islanders from entering Australia from 1904 and forcing the deportation of more than 7000.
Pressure from their descendants has produced some moves in the past decade, including official recognition as a distinct ethnic group by the Queensland Government in 2000.
Last week, a meeting of descendants and the Vanuatu delegation issued a statement of intent to form a national organisation, with an initial congress in Bundaberg next Easter.
Regenvanu, who chaired the meeting, said a nationally representative body able to talk with both the Vanuatu and Australian governments was needed to help build more sustainable relations.
Descendant delegate Shireen Malamoo said the footprints of blackbirding remained.
"So many don't know of the blackbirding era or that the primary industries, in particular the sugar industries, were built on the backs of [islander] slave labour," she said.
"This period in Australian history has been buried".