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Friday essay: a slave state - how blackbirding in colonial Australia created a legacy of racism

By Jeff Sparrow, Lecturer, Centre for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne
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In July 2021, Jack Dempsey, the mayor of Bundaberg, delivered an official apology for Northern Queensland’s past reliance on the indentured labour of Pacific Islanders, many of whom were kidnapped (or “blackbirded”) and forced to work on the state’s cane plantations. “To say sorry,” explained Dempsey, “is a start in the healing and the hope for a better relationship going forward.”

The emotional response – equal parts sorrow and relief – from the local Islander community confirmed the gesture’s importance. “I’m thinking about my mother and my brother and my aunties who have all passed…The Conversation


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