An historical perspective on the development of the Mackay district sugarcane Industry




Sephton, Kaaren

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The Mackay district sugarcane industry provides the background for an in-depth analysis of one sugar growing community. I draw on interviews of industry workers from Mia Mia, (an agricultural district - not a township) which forms an industrial community of cane farmers, mill workers, and associated industry representatives. Mia Mia is a small, close-knit agricultural community located 41km inland from Mackay City on the North Queensland coast of Australia. I interviewed forty-two individuals, representing either themselves or their families, who described their life associated with the sugar industry. These individuals came from a range of work backgrounds such as cane farming, accountancy, cane cutting, milling, politics, teaching, and other work experiences, all with a connection to Mia Mia. The thesis explores the social, cultural, economic, political, and technological changes that occurred with the development of the sugar industry in the Mackay district between 1900 and the mid-1990s. My research investigates the extent to which the Mia Mia community benefited from working in the sugarcane industry. It argues that local farmers, millers and sugar industry workers derived significant economic and social benefits. However, it emphasises that the benefits were not without personal hardships. The thesis also explores the role of government, legislation and policy making that supported and protected the sugarcane industry. The methodology used in this thesis is that of prosopography, which is defined as the study of individuals in the context of a broader community. The methodology of prosopography identifies the relationships between people according to their names and roles and establishes their social relationships in terms of groups, ethnic and regional origin, family relationships and careers. This research topic reaches into the wider sugar industry community to interview sugar industry workers who live outside the community boundary of Mia Mia but who have a connection to that community. An analysis of the participant's responses provided unique insights into the many connections between individuals, families, community associations and sugar industry organisations. Those connections provide a glimpse of a way of life that may not exist in the future.






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