RAOBEIA KEN SIGRAH AND STACEY KING
Met in 1992 while Stacey was visiting Rabi Island for the first time. It was during this visit that Stacey realised the dire state the Banabans were living under and decided to form a non-profit international organisation, the Banaban Heritage Society to help try and build a better future for the community.
In 1993 with their shared interest in Banaban history and culture and Ken’s role as clan spokesman, they began working together to preserve Banaban history. Ironically Ken’s great-great grandfather, Kamaraia was one of the signatories on the notorious 1900 Agreement that saw the Banabans beloved homeland signed away for mining for 999 years. Stacey’s great-great grandfather, Henry Williams was one of the first European mining engineers to arrive on Banaba in 1901 and over the next 30 years three generations of the Williams family would play a major role in aiding the eventual destruction of the island. Ken and Stacey believed that it was far more than fate that found them working together 92 years later and so did many of the Banaban elders. Over the next six years Stacey took on the role of funding and implementing various aid projects for the community, utilising the volunteer skills of others, including retired miners and their descendants, other non-government organisations, and her local business connections.
It was during the historic HOMECOMING trip to Banaba in 1997 that the elders asked them if they could write the true history of their people and tell the world what had become of the Banabans. Over time the history of the Banabans had conveniently been rewritten to pander to the political needs of the phosphate mining industry and the Colonial Empire of the time. Ken and Stacey believe the writing of TE RII NI BANABA – The Backbone of Banaba, published in 2001 was their greatest personal contribution to the Banaban people and their quest to preserve Banaban culture and identity for future generations, while reminding the world what had happened to the beloved Banaban homeland.
With Ken’s first hand experience and traditional knowledge as a Banaban and Stacey’s past involvement as the founder of the BANABAN HERITAGE SOCIETY working with the Banaban community and her business connections they have formed an extensive global network of associates, business colleagues and friends. Their efforts to try and help the Banaban people are always in the forefront of everything they undertake.
‘Ken and Stacey believe that the most important way to encourage the preservation of Banaban traditional skills is through maintaining their culture.
They have built their business NATURE PACIFIC producing Fiji grown coconut oil and nautural products based on Banaban traditions. Every product they sell tells the Banaban story and the dream to rehabilitate the homeland.
As Ken states, ‘We as indigenous Banabans may have nothing in a monetary sense, and yes each day is a struggle for us back on our homelands, but we know who we are and where we come from. Especially in our case when we have been displaced and our homeland has been left in ruins, our rich phosphate soil scattered to the winds on Australian and New Zealand farmlands, and yet through all this hardship we like other Pacific people are happy and culturally rich.
They will continue their efforts to try and save their forgotten people – The Banabans.
Ken & Stacey's efforts in preserving Banaban history and culture was published in 2007 by Cambridge University Press - Chapter 17 - Hunting the Collectors