Whitewash-Brainwash: An Archival-Poetic Labour Story

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The majority of Aboriginal families I know in South Australia carry intimate histories of domestic service through living memory and inter-generational blood-memory passed on. Despite the significance of these stories within families, this government-orchestrated system of indentured labour targeting Aboriginal girls remains largely hidden and unacknowledged in the state's dominant and official public narrative of history. This paper considers the historical, unfolding rationale for inter-dependent policies of child-removal, institutionalisation and training, as context to the burgeoning Aboriginal domestic service workforce into the twentieth century. It also examines popular culture discourse, coupled with prevailing racialised attitudes toward Aboriginal women at the time, exemplified through representations of ‘Abo Maids’ in a prominent national women’s magazine, The Australian Woman's Mirror. ‘Archival-poetics’, as an active, embodied reckoning with history and the colonial archive, is also introduced as creative praxis; one way to bridge this labour knowledge gap and contribute to larger stories of resistance, resilience and refusal with healing and decolonising intent. (Figure presented.).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Feminist Law Journal
Early online date18 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Sep 2020


  • Aboriginal domestic service
  • Indigenous domestic service
  • indentured labour
  • child-removal
  • institutionalisation
  • institutionalisation and training
  • attitudes toward Aboriginal women

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