In this talk, Dr. Kellie Moss will explore the various marginalised groups which where utilized by the colonial government to create the ‘Swan River’ colony.

This talk situates the transportation of convicts to Western Australia within the context of wider flows of coerced labour systems from across the British Empire in the period 1829–1868.

European, Chinese and Indian indentured servants, Aboriginal people, juvenile emigrants and convicts were amongst the extraordinary range of labourers utilised by the colonial government and settlers of the Swan River Colony in a bid to secure its future. Despite their connections, these marginalised forms of labour are often examined separately, yet, when placed together, we see how widespread the exploitation of coerced labour became in the colony during the nineteenth century.

By examining the relationship between these differing practices, this session will establish how the process of introducing new and increasingly controversial forms of unfree labour ultimately shaped Swan River’s decision to become a penal colony in 1850. Finally, it will demonstrate that despite being bound by these exploitative practices, the labourers themselves proved instrumental in determining the form of successive labour systems within the colony.

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