From chains to change: symposium to investigate how slavery impacted early Australia

A two-day program of keynote speakers, panel conversations and a yarning circle will look to unravel the forgotten chapters of British slavery that linger in the shadows of Australia’s colonisation.

Australian Legacies of Slavery will be presented by The University of Western Australia and the State Library of WA on December 1 and 2 at the State Library.

Professor Jane Lydon, UWA Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, said the symposium would investigate the legacies of British slavery within the colonisation of Australia, and ask why this history had been forgotten.

“After August 1833, when British Parliament abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape, the former slave-owners were paid compensation for the loss of their ‘property’,” Professor Lydon said.

“New research has begun to show that many beneficiaries had ties to other parts of the British Empire, including the settler colonies of Australia, Canada and South Africa.

“Participants in this symposium will trace the movement of people, goods, capital, and practices from the Caribbean to the new Australasian settler colonies.”

Hands breaking free from chains

A yarning circle to close the event will be led by four First Nations speakers: Dr Carol Dowling, Dr Hannah McGlade, Lorraine Injie and Dennis Simmons.

Professor Lydon said the event stemmed from the Australian Research Council-funded ‘Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery’ project led by UWA, in partnership with Edith Cowan University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Sussex, in collaboration with the National Centre of Biography, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM), and the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London.

“Presentations consider a range of places, people and themes to reveal the varied ways that slavery continued to shape imperial relationships, economic networks, and racial labour regimes after 1833,” Professor Lydon said.

UWA’s Dr Jeremy Martens, Aoife Nugent and Professor Alistair Paterson, will join Professor Lydon as speakers at the event.

More information and details on how to register can be found here.

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