The Road 6c - Histories of Trafficking


Histories of Trafficking

An Indigenous woman wearing a long blue dress is kneeling on wet sand at a beach with the ocean behind her. Her hands are bound together with rope that is being pulled by a white man who is trying to drag her across the sand. Her head is up looking toward the sky as if she is trying to resist his strength and crying out. He looks casually at the camera.

[imagecaption] ‘Oyster Fishermen #11’, The Oyster Fishermen, inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, Edition 15, 60x80cm, 2011. Artist: Fiona Foley. Image courtesy of the artist. [/imagecaption]

‘Aboriginal girls in rural areas were trading sexual favors for transportation, food, clothing, shelter, drugs and alcohol.  The colonial state, in its past and current roles, acts as a trafficker of Indigenous bodies, especially women’

Sarah Deer (2010)


‘The whole east coast of Queensland was known for its treatment of Aboriginal men, women and children, who were often taken by force onto fishing vessels … the kidnapping of women not only for their labour but also to satisfy the sexual needs of an otherwise almost entirely male fishing population …The pressure of sexual abduction, assault and infection by venereal disease on Aboriginal women created insecurity. There was no safe environment from marauding white males bent on sexual raids.’

Fiona Foley (2017, 86)

Robyn Bourgeois notes that ‘the centrality of human trafficking to the historical and ongoing settler colonial project of the Canadian nation state [is] essential to understanding and addressing the trafficking of indigenous women and girls in Canada.’ (Bourgeois 2015, 1433). Badtjala artist Fiona Foley’s work, ‘The Oyster Fishermen’, traces the journey of a young Aboriginal woman, abducted and violently forced into work in the fishing industry. Foley’s series of photographs speaks to the histories of women targeted, kidnapped, exploited and abused in the process of building the core industries developed by settlers in the nineteenth century. Mining, farming, pearling and whaling all involved distinctive forms of violent, and in some instances lethal, exploitation for Indigenous women and children. Colonial massacres resulted in some instances from Aboriginal resistance to the sexual exploitation of women and girls, as in the case of the Ravensthorpe massacre in Western Australia.


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