Australia’s deep reference to enslavement

These compensated had been a various group that included Dutch farmers in South Africa, widowed moms in Birmingham who had invested in a single slave, and the creole residents of the Caribbean. Slavery enterprise permeated center and higher Britain and its empire.

The Adam Lindsay Gordon statue in Spring Street, Melbourne

The Adam Lindsay Gordon statue in Spring Road, MelbourneCredit score:The Age

However since compensation was allotted in line with individuals “owned” and plantation profitability, rich buyers obtained a disproportionately massive share of the £20 million. John Gladstone, father to British prime minister William Gladstone, was a part of a compensation declare for 11 plantations, simply certainly one of which noticed him paid greater than £10,000 for the lack of 193 enslaved individuals.

This story has implications for Australia. Compensation was paid to at the least 150 households who settled within the Australian colonies. These included high-profile figures, comparable to judges, non secular ministers, governors, journalists, pastoralists, financiers, business brokers and writers. These settlers had been usually born in a plantation colony to households that had accrued wealth, schooling and social development by means of the enslavement of individuals.

Poet Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70), a father of the Australian ballad, was an solely little one of slave-owners in British Guiana. His colonial life as a member of the Victorian Home of Meeting, land speculator, horse breaker and poet was underwritten by massive sums of cash from his mom (together with a £7000 inheritance) after she obtained compensation for 285 enslaved individuals.

Victorian Supreme Courtroom decide Sir Edward Williams (1813-80) was the son of a planter and himself a part of two profitable claims for compensation for 64 enslaved individuals in Trinidad in 1836, amounting to greater than £3000. In 1842 he arrived within the Port Phillip District, commenced a authorized profession and bought land extending from the Yarra River to Toorak Highway to construct Como Home.

Como House, which was constructed in 1847.

Como Home, which was constructed in 1847.

A very attention-grabbing case is that of Charles Sievwright (1800-55), assistant to chief protector of Aborigines in Port Phillip, George Augustus Robertson, who was dismissed after tending one more report on the homicide of Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung by squatters. Sievwright’s father was certainly one of a number of awardees of compensation for 86 enslaved individuals in Tobago the 12 months earlier than Charles got here to Australia.

Different distinguished Victorian figures embody Andrew (1792-1853) and Celia Scott (1796-1879) who in 1836 had been awardees of compensation for 107 enslaved individuals in Tobago. Three years later, they established Mount Buninyoing station and commenced buying land within the western district of Port Phillip, the place they ran a cattle farm over 6470 hectares.

Melbourne lord mayor and member of the Victorian Legislative Meeting Godfrey Carter (1830-1902) was born in Jamaica the place a number of members of his household owned slaves and had been awarded compensation for his or her loss.

Newspaper journalists, together with from this newspaper, got here from slave-owning households too. Chairman of the Melbourne inventory alternate and Age journalist Robert Wallen (1831-93), editor of Victoria Colonist and Western District Advertiser Gilbert Robertson (1794-1851), and editor of The Age from 1872 Arthur Windsor (1833-1913) had been all sons of slave-owners. Windsor’s father was awarded compensation for 30 enslaved individuals in Barbados and Windsor himself obtained cash from inherited sugar estates.

Georgina Arnott

Georgina Arnott

The purpose of figuring out people is to not demonise them. Slightly, this helps us hint the legacies of slavery throughout the British Empire, together with to Victoria, and set up how they manifested. Slavery was premised on a notion of racial hierarchy that was influential right here too. How these notions knowledgeable the actions of those that had been raised in slave-owning environments is the topic of ongoing analysis.


Compensation and wealth from slavery additionally made its strategy to Australia by way of funding schemes. Australia obtained extra British international funding within the second half of the 19th century than some other place. So though it’s tough to say how a lot wealth from slavery supported the growth and growth of the Australian colonies, logic suggests it was appreciable.

The Prime Minister is true to say that New South Wales was established at a time when there was rising anti-slavery sentiment in Britain. Quite a few earlier colonists hoped to ascertain a society free from the conflicts of Europe and the ethical failures of enslavement. Nevertheless, this clearly didn’t occur. One of many causes for that is that the British imported a historical past of racial oppression by way of authorized, administrative, financial and ideological buildings.


It’s vital that the Prime Minister says there are “points” in Australian historical past and that he’s “closely invested” in them. All of us are. Figuring out how they’ve formed Australia immediately, and what type restitution may take, is the problem.

Georgina Arnott is postdoctoral analysis affiliate on the College of Melbourne and the creator of The Unknown Judith Wright.

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