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The evolution of 'Malay' labour activism, 1870-1947: protest among pearling crews in Dutch East Indies-Australian waters

Journal Article


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Abstract


  • The history of Indonesian labour activism as seen from an Australian

    perspective is best known in the context of World War Two when the presence

    of Asian seamen in Australia sparked a flourish of internationalism and anticolonial

    protest under the umbrella organization of the Seamen's Union of

    Australia. But the story of Malay maritime worker protest has a deeper history,

    reaching back to the early years of the pearl-shelling and trepang industries

    when Malay workers from the Dutch East Indies were brought to work off the

    northern Australian coast. Before the advent of a seamen's union, these workers

    faced harsh working conditions and had little recourse to legal forms of protest.

    Their refusal to accept poor conditions was met with reprisals which included

    physical punishment, gaol sentences and detention on board ships without shore

    leave. There is evidence that in the late nineteenth century the most common

    form of protest was mutiny, with Malay crews seizing vessels and sailing to the

    Dutch East Indies. By the twentieth century there was more scope for

    negotiation, with increasing support from Australian unions and improved

    government regulation. The milder forms of more recent protests and the

    willingness of Indonesians to take their cue from Australian unionists has

    somewhat obscured the nature of early Malay protest. This paper takes a longer

    view of worker activism in order to highlight the deep roots of maritime protest

    in the Indian Ocean region.

Publication Date


  • 2009

Citation


  • Martinez, J. (2009). The evolution of ''Malay'' labour activism, 1870-1947: protest among pearling crews in Dutch East Indies-Australian waters. Transforming Cultures eJounral, 4 (2), 85-110.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1946&context=artspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/927

Number Of Pages


  • 25

Start Page


  • 85

End Page


  • 110

Volume


  • 4

Issue


  • 2

Place Of Publication


  • Australia

Abstract


  • The history of Indonesian labour activism as seen from an Australian

    perspective is best known in the context of World War Two when the presence

    of Asian seamen in Australia sparked a flourish of internationalism and anticolonial

    protest under the umbrella organization of the Seamen's Union of

    Australia. But the story of Malay maritime worker protest has a deeper history,

    reaching back to the early years of the pearl-shelling and trepang industries

    when Malay workers from the Dutch East Indies were brought to work off the

    northern Australian coast. Before the advent of a seamen's union, these workers

    faced harsh working conditions and had little recourse to legal forms of protest.

    Their refusal to accept poor conditions was met with reprisals which included

    physical punishment, gaol sentences and detention on board ships without shore

    leave. There is evidence that in the late nineteenth century the most common

    form of protest was mutiny, with Malay crews seizing vessels and sailing to the

    Dutch East Indies. By the twentieth century there was more scope for

    negotiation, with increasing support from Australian unions and improved

    government regulation. The milder forms of more recent protests and the

    willingness of Indonesians to take their cue from Australian unionists has

    somewhat obscured the nature of early Malay protest. This paper takes a longer

    view of worker activism in order to highlight the deep roots of maritime protest

    in the Indian Ocean region.

Publication Date


  • 2009

Citation


  • Martinez, J. (2009). The evolution of ''Malay'' labour activism, 1870-1947: protest among pearling crews in Dutch East Indies-Australian waters. Transforming Cultures eJounral, 4 (2), 85-110.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1946&context=artspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/artspapers/927

Number Of Pages


  • 25

Start Page


  • 85

End Page


  • 110

Volume


  • 4

Issue


  • 2

Place Of Publication


  • Australia