Blackbirds: Australia’s hidden slave trade history

3 December, 2019

There are laws and there is justice. Are they always the same?

The history of slavery in America is well documented, but the Australia has a hidden slave trade history of its own. In the 19th century between 55,000 and 62,500 Pacific Islanders were transported to Australia to work the cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales. The practice was termed “blackbirding” – a fraught, complex word encompassing a spectrum of exploitation ranging from technically consensual but unethical labour contracts to outright kidnapping and slavery. In 2014, some of their descendants drove from Sydney to Canberra to hear George Christensen demand a national apology for Australian South Sea Islanders. Speaking to a near-empty Federation Chamber, Christensen said blackbirding was “the closest thing Australia has had to a slave trade”.

Read the article in full here.

The Monthly, July 2019