Australian Legacies of Slavery Conference 2023

State Library of Western Australia, Northbridge
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Friday 1 - Saturday 2 December 2023

State Library of Western Australia, Northbridge

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This conference investigates the legacies of British slavery within the colonisation of Australia, and asks why this history has been overlooked. After August 1833, when British Parliament abolished slavery in the British Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape, the former slave-owners were paid compensation for the loss of their ‘property’. New research has begun to show that many beneficiaries had ties to other parts of the British Empire, including the settler colonies of Australia, Canada and South Africa. Participants in this conference trace the movement of people, goods, capital, and practices from the Caribbean to the new Australasian settler colonies. 

This event arises out of the ‘Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery’ project and extends its themes, methods and questions in new directions. Presentations consider a range of places, people and themes to reveal the varied ways that slavery continued to shape imperial relationships, economic networks, and racial labour regimes after 1833.

 Day 1

Day 1 of this conference will include the presentation of research and papers from leading academics in the field (9:15am - 5:15pm).


  • Dr Malcolm Allbrook – Australian National University
  • Dr Trevor Burnard – University of Hull, England
  • Associate Professor Emma Christopher – University of New South Wales
  • Professor Zoe Laidlaw – University of Melbourne
  • Professor Jane Lydon – University of Western Australia
  • Dr Jeremy Martens – University of Western Australia
  • Professor Angela McCarthy – University of Otago, NZ
  • Dr Keith McClelland – University College London
  • Dr Annemarie McLaren – University of Notre Dame, Fremantle
  • Aoife Nugent – University of Western Australia
  • Professor Angela Wanhalla – University of Otago, NZ
  • Dr Nikita Vanderbyl – La Trobe University, Melbourne
  • Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart – University of New England
  • Professor Jill Milroy - University of Western Australia

Day 2

Day two is intended for a broader audience, with highlights including a keynote from Associate Professor Emma Christopher (10:30am - 12:30pm) and a yarning circle with leading thinkers Dr Hannah McGlade, Lorraine Intje, Dennis Simmons and Dr Carol Dowling (1:30pm - 3pm).

Keynote speakers 

Keith McClelland is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the History department at UCL (University College London). He was co-founder, with Catherine Hall and Nick Draper, of the original Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-). Although now retired, he continues to work with the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, especially on maintaining the database and website.

Associate Professor Emma Christopher is an historian, filmmaker, and activist. She currently holds an eight-year Scientia Fellowship at the University of New South Wales and is leading an interdisciplinary, international ARC-funded project entitled ‘Slavery, Race, Sugar: South Sea Islanders in Australia’. Her books are Slave Ships Sailors and their Captive Cargoes, and A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain’s Convict Disaster in Africa, which won the Kay Daniels Prize and the Ernest Scott Prize. Her latest book, Freedom in White and Black, was a Choice winner in 2019. She is the co-editor, with Marcus Rediker and Cassandra Pybus, of Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World.

 She is also a documentary maker and is the director and producer of They Are We, which won six Best Documentary Awards, was chosen as the United Nations’ Remembrance of Slavery film in 2015 and was called ‘an inspiration’ by UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon. Her last film, We The Cimarrons, won the Social Justice Award at the Cannes World Film Festival in 2021. Her new film, Black is Not the Skin, is forthcoming.