Anti-slavery in Australia: Picturing the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre

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During the 1830s, white settlers in the Australian colonies sought to consolidate their possession of Aboriginal land, prompting tension between colonists and Aboriginal people, and between settlers and British humanitarian interests. In this essay, I examine competing representations of frontier clashes, and particularly the 1838 Myall Creek massacre, and their links to larger imperial debates. At the height of their influence, British humanitarians drew upon the discursive strategies of the antislavery movement in seeking to mobilize concern for Indigenous Australians. In a context where Aboriginal people were stereotyped as primitive and non-human, counter-images and strategies drawn from antislavery discourse might constitute them as objects of white compassion. Focusing blame upon the convict perpetrators allowed elite humanitarians to displace responsibility from the system of colonization itself.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12330
Number of pages12
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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