University of Tasmania
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A shared landscape : Aboriginal and Chinese labour on a New South Wales pastoral station, 1832-1899

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posted on 2023-05-27, 08:57 authored by Rebecca Read
In 1832, William Montagu Rothery and his brother, Frederick, founded Cliefden, a pastoral station in central western New South Wales. This thesis examines Aboriginal and Chinese labour at Cliefden during the period 1832-1899. It takes Cliefden as a case study, a 'situated context' of shared European, Aboriginal and Chinese experience. Using a rich array of archives from this station, it argues that, notwithstanding intense violence on expanding colonial frontiers, some pastoral stations could be places of necessary mutual accommodation and relatively equitable labour. It also argues that, for Chinese, some pastoral stations could be places of ongoing labour outside the goldfields and away from the pernicious anti-Chinese hostility prevalent during the second half of the nineteenth century. In so doing, it aims to add new historical insights into Indigenous and Chinese experience in nineteenth-century rural Australia and reveal the shared landscape of the mid- to late-nineteenth century pastoral station. The daily labour experiences of both Aboriginal and Chinese workers on pastoral stations are areas of developing, but not yet extensive, scholarship. This thesis builds on that scholarship and overturns two general presumptions: that the Aboriginal labour experience on pastoral stations was always based on inequitable labour relations, and that Chinese workers were few, itinerant, and equally underpaid. As well, this thesis offers a more comprehensive view of one pastoral station as a 'contact zone', a 'shared landscape', and a site of colonial labour for Aboriginal, European and Chinese peoples. Historian. Tony Ballantyne recently made the point that, while there is a need for more work that maps broad patterns and pursues large questions, it needs to 'sit alongside and engage with the more specialised and localised research that should be the lifeblood of history as a discipline'. As a localised study, this thesis contributes to that lifeblood


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