IT is a historically-significant place in Australia as far as some Melanesians are concerned.
Known as the Cudgen Burial Ground, the site is the last resting place of many South Sea Islanders who were taken to the east coast of Australia as cheap labourers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Like those brought to Fiji from the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) starting in 1864, their fellow countrymen were also taken to parts of Australia to work as slaves during the labour trade.
While a few descendants of the Melanesians brought to Fiji as slaves under the labour trade have been able to trace their roots to Malaita in the Solomon Islands, one also went to Australia to find out more about his roots.
But unfortunately though, the lack of time did little to help Rupeni Oli know more about his ancestors during a trip to Queensland in 2009.
Mr Oli, who is the president of the Fiji Melanesian Community Development Association, was invited by the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies based at Queensland University.
"They wanted me to go there and see how we can trace our roots and see the evidence at the museum there," he said.
"We also discussed how we can do our village profiling. I also met the descendants of those taken to Australia from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
"I also had the opportunity to visit the burial ground of the Melanesians who were taken there during the labour trade and who died there."
Mr Oli said his two weeks stay in Australia was not sufficient for him to trace his roots, saying it would take two to three years to go through the information stored in microfilms.
He said the spelling of names on the tombstones at the burial ground were different from those of his forefathers and those of the ancestors of the Solomon descendants living in Fiji.
"But if you pronounce the names, then the sound is same as the names of those descendants from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
"There is so much information in the museum and library there that the two weeks I went for was just not enough for me to make any breakthrough.
"Actually, it will take between two and three years to go through all the records. The first thing would be to go through the names, check the spelling and the pronunciation.
"We need some expertise, qualified people to do this as far as tracing our other relatives in Australia is concerned."
Mr Oli said it was agreed at the meeting with the ACPACS that a good starting point for a competitive grant proposal would be a research project designed for the Melanesian association to create profiles of Fiji Melanesian settlements.
He said funding would be needed for staff travel and for an office to co-ordinate the project.
"A detailed budget would need to be created that explained costs of each trip, number of trips, destinations and staff required.
"Local people could work with an experienced researcher to carry out the profiling work in each community. A settlement profile may include individual interviews, door-to-door surveys and community aspirations for development."
Mr Oli also sad the Fiji Melanesian Community Development Association's women's wing was also very active.
He said the women's wing had their annual general meetings and discussed the way forward for them.
During his discussions in Australia then, he said the association was interested in developing a scheme for seasonal labourers from the Fiji Melanesian community to work in Australia.
He said such a scheme could work as a sort of "reverse blackbirding", saying some of the current farmers could be descendants of those who initially benefitted from the blackbirding era.
So far, the descendants of those brought to Fiji from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have not been able to successfully trace their blood relatives living in Australia.
Being one of the first to go to Queensland in an attempt to trace their roots, Mr Oli said a lot of work was still left to be done.
The descendants of those brought to Fiji from the Solomon Islands are living in settlements in various parts of Fiji, including Vanua Levu and Ovalau.
What has been evident from visits to some of the settlements so far is the close bond between the descendants, no matter which part of Fiji they live in.
Although they are separated by the distance, the descendants in Fiji are in constant touch with each other and they visit the settlements when there is a death or any other function happening.
Mr Oli said he was still interested in finding out more about his "blood relatives" living in Queensland, as their forefathers were also taken there in a similar way like those brought to Fiji.
According to the Australian Heritage Database, although many South Sea Islanders died in Australia, there are few cemeteries associated with their presence.
It says the Cudgen Burial Ground is important as one of the few known burial sites for South Sea Islanders in Australia.
"The history of South Sea Islanders in Australia has been poorly researched to date. This site has great potential to contribute to an understanding of the South Sea Islander culture in Australia," the www.environment.gov.au website stated.
"The Cudgen Burial Ground is of demonstrated importance to the South Sea Islander community in the Tweed region who have been active in its recognition and preservation as a significant cultural site."
Located about 300 kilometres south-east of Chinderah Cemetery, the burial ground extends for about 480 metres along the western side of the Cudgen-Chinderah Road.
"Survey plans show the location of 18 graves within the boundaries although it is like the number is substantially higher," says the website.
It says that in 1968, the whole of the dedication for the cemetery at Chinderah was revoked and a small area within its boundaries was reserved for the preservation of graves.
"There is little surface evidence of the graves with the ground being levelled and traces removed. The area is grassed and lightly wooded with mainly native trees," it says.
According to the Australian Heritage Database, the recruitment of South Sea Islanders to work in Australia began in 1847 when Ben Boyd took 551 islanders to work as shepherds in the Riverina.
Between 1863 and 1904, 62,561 South Sea Islanders were taken to Queensland as indentured labourers.
"They were recruited from over 80 islands, mainly Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and also New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and Tuvalu.
"The indentured labour contract was for a three-year term and bound them to the employer at a fixed rate of six pounds per year plus rations.
"The recruitment process was commonly referred to as blackbirding. When the contracts expired, the employer was to return them to the islands. However, many renegotiated their contracts to extend their stay as time expired labourers," it was revealed in the database.
In Fiji, the blackbirding era began in 1964 when the first New Hebridean and Solomon Island labourers arrived to work in cotton plantations and later in the sugar cane fields.
The majority of those brought to Fiji were males, who married iTaukei women at the end of their term and settled in Fiji.
Since then, there have been inter-marriages and the Solomon descendants have blended in well with the local iTaukei population.
Likewise, the iTaukei who have married the Solomon descendants actively participate in anything that has to do with their fellow Melanesians.
One such major get-together is scheduled for Thursday in the highlands of Nadroga, namely the annual meeting of the Fiji Melanesian Community Development Association's women's wing.