Intimate Encounters: Aboriginal Labour Stories and the Violence of the Colonial Archive

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


PRELUDE | a beginning by way of introduction to something else epic in search for an impossible origin of the event, a preview-awakening to the positioning of things, a warning:

Women may have been the boundary markers of empire. But it was the gendered and racialized intimacies of the everyday that women, men, and children were turned into subjects of particular kinds, as domination was routinized and rerouted in intimacies that the state sought to know but could never completely master or work out.
(Stoler 2006a: 57)

In 2018, the South Australian government’s Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee identified Indigenous stolen wages as a matter requiring further investigation.1 It acknowledged that, while significant progress had been made in other states following the Australian Senate’s 2006 National Stolen Wages Inquiry, this was “not yet explored in South Australia” (Secretary to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, pers. comm. 24 June 2019). In June 2019, the Committee called for witnesses to present information regarding the extent and impacts of stolen wages practices affecting Aboriginal people in South Australia and I was invited to present an overview of my current research on South Australian Aboriginal domestic service history. This included some context to the burgeoning Aboriginal domestic service workforce in the early twentieth century, such as: the assimilation-based rationale for interdependent
policies of child removal, institutionalisation and training; the labour conditions
Aboriginal women were subject to; and the question of payment and the state’s management of
trust fund accounts. This evidence exemplifies those intimate boundary markers of empire, to
which Stoler (2006a) refers above.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies
EditorsBrendan Hokowhitu, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Linda Tuhiwai-Smith, Chris Andersen, Steve Larkin
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429440229
ISBN (Print)9781138341302
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Aboriginal Labour
  • Violence
  • Colonial Archive


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