Publication Details

Martinez, J. T. (2003). Belated labour reform: Australia and the abolition of Asian indenture. In B. Bowden & J. Kellett (Eds.), Transforming Labour: Work, Workers, Struggle and Change: Proceedings of the Eighth National Labour History Conference held at the College of Art, Griffith University, South Bank, Brisbane (pp. 225-231). Brisbane, Australia: Brisbane Labour History Association.


The abolition of indentured labour and the rejection of so-called' coloured' labour was a central concern of the first parliament of Australia, following" Federation. An exception was made, however, for the pearl-shelling industry which continued to import Asian indents despite concerns that this undermined the ' White Australian agenda. In the 1950s Australian government support for indentured labour remained steadfast ignoring growing international criticism. The dismantling of the indenture system in the late 1960s was a belated attempt at labour reform. Government debates, however, reveal that the liberalisation of labour policy masked a continued desire to limit Asian immigration.