Australia to learn from past on Slavery Remembrance Day

25/03/2021 | 3 mins

A researcher from The University of Western Australia has released a book on Slavery Remembrance Day that reveals Australia has not yet acknowledged the truth of colonisation and its impact on Indigenous people. 

Every year, on March 25, the world remembers the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Thebook, Anti-slavery and Australia: No slavery in a free land? by Professor Jane Lydon, UWA’s Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, brings together the histories of British and Australian colonisation to explore how society can learn from Australia’s colonial past and apply it to modern slavery today.

Professor Lydon leads the ARC-funded project, ‘Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery’, which examines the importance of the legacy of British slavery for the colonisation of Western Australia, and the reasons why this history has been overlooked. 

New research by the project team traces the continuing effects of British slavery across the empire, as people, capital, ideas and practices were transferred from the Caribbean to new sites of profit. The new settler colonies flourished for 50 years alongside the British slave system. 

Results are currently being presented in an online seminar series:

Professor Lydon said celebration of the British abolition of slavery in 1833 had overshadowed the reality of continuing practices of labour exploitation that continue around the world. 

“One of the lasting effects of abolition was to establish a dichotomy between slavery and ‘freedom’, Professor Lydon said. 

“Yet after 1834 slavery was widely replaced by diverse new global regimes of exploitation.”

“In 2020 the Prime Minister stated that ‘Australia when it was founded … was on the basis that there be no slavery.’ But Indigenous leaders contested celebration of the ‘end’ of British slaveries by pointing toward the suffering entailed by unfree labour exploitation practices emerging after abolition.

“As we commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery, stereotypes of the enslaved African continue to obscure a more complex history, and many surviving legacies of slavery,” Professor Lydon said.

Anti-slavery and Australia: No slavery in a free land? is available to purchase online.

Media references

Simone Hewett, UWA Media & PR Manager, 08 6488 3229 / 0432 637 716

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