Witnessing Indigenous oppression: Communication between humanitarians in Australia and London in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
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Frontier violence and past practices of Indigenous child removal are topics that cause some of the most contentious social and political arguments in contemporary Australia. These issues were also fiercely debated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both within Australia and internationally. During the late eighteenth century, organisations devoted to stamping out slavery wielded increased influence in Britain. After 1833, when slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies, members of these organisations began to focus increasingly on other forms of indigenous abuse that were occurring internationally. By the 1890s, there was a considerable degree of correspondence between humanitarians and missionaries in Australia and members of humanitarian associations in Britain. In particular, correspondence between members of the anti-slavery society and the Aboriginals Protection Society, which merged together in 1909, and Australian humanitarians provide a fascinating illustration of the way that humanitarians, within and outside of Australia, provided testimony about Indigenous abuse and exploitation. This paper particularly focuses on the correspondence that was exchanged between British and Australian humanitarians about Aboriginal exploitation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What issues were discussed? What evidence was provided by Australian humanitarians to British organisations? Did this testimony have any effect? How revealing is this correspondence and how should we read it and how should we incorporate this material into our national history?
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