The impact of international anti-slavery movements in Australia will be explored at a public lecture at the State Library of Queenslandtoday (December 17).

Leading international and national commentators and activists will discuss the legacies and histories of slavery and anti-slavery movements that saw the end of the formal Atlantic slave trade from the mid-19th century, but the rise of indenture and myriad forms of unfree labour.

Speakers include:

  • Professor Philippa Levine: Humanities Professor, University of Austin, Texas
  • Professor Kevin Grant: Hamilton College, New York
  • Professor Jane Lydon: University of Western Australia
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Burn: Anti-Slavery Australia and University of Technology Sydney

Professor Fiona Paisley, from Griffith University’s School of Humanities said while many people thought slavery belonged to another era it was still very much alive in the form of human trafficking and labour exploitation of migrants and others.

“Anti-slavery was a set of ideas that was very much part of public culture in Australia as it was in Britain in the 1930s when slavery had supposedly been abolished,’’ she said.

“But the end of formal slavery saw the proliferation of myriad forms of unfree labour including indenture, trafficking, and child slavery. These forms of slavery are still a feature of today’s world as Anti-Slavery (Britain) and Anti-Slavery Australia attest.”

A one-day symposium – ‘Anti-Slavery and Australia’ – will follow the public lecture on Friday, December 18 at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Professor Paisley said Australia had been a significant part of the world history of Anti-Slavery from the 1890s to the 1950s (and beyond) because the status and conditions of Aboriginal people in Australia were routinely described as like slavery, akin to slavery, or virtual slavery.

“We look at the ways in which Aboriginal people were represented in Australia through the lens of international ‘anti-slavery’ language and images.”

Emma Christopherwill introduce her award-winning documentary They Are Weat the end of the symposium.