The term "blackbirding" refers to the forced enslavement of South Sea Islanders on Australian plantations between 1840 and 1900. Lured aboard vessels either by trickery or abduction, the natives were taken to Queensland, Fiji or Samoa and forced to work on sugar or cotton plantations where they were known as "kanakas". Ben Boyd, founder of Boyd Town, brought kanakas to New South Wales in 1849 to work on sheep properties. His example was later followed by such pioneers as Robert Towns, founder of Townsville.
The Queensland government passed the Polynesian Labourers Act in 1868 to protect the islanders but this had little effect. Blackbirding continued almost unhindered until 1904 when the Australian government ordered the return of all islanders to their homes.