In Conversation: Decoding the language of colonialism

An exploration of the importance of calling it as it is.

Many would argue that Australia is only now reaching a point in its history where the dominant culture is willing to make space for the possibility of raw and authentic truth-telling, specifically as it relates to Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander people’s experiences of colonialism.

We are in the long process of coming to terms with the country’s darker histories surrounding the treatment of Aboriginal people, a legacy which has deep roots in contemporary social and political structures. In the name of truth telling, when comes the point in this process where we start to replace words like “stolen wages” and "indentured work” with less illusive, more realistic words like "slavery".

Join a panel of experts and community as they discuss a hopeful new path forward in decoding the language of our written and oral histories in Australia and the importance of calling it as it is when it comes to the past and present.


Alistair Paterson HS BW

Professor Alistair Paterson is an ARC Future Fellow in archaeology at the University of Western Australia. His research examines the historical archaeology of colonial coastal contact and settlement in Australia’s Northwest and the Indian Ocean. His key interests are Western Australia and Indian Ocean history, Aboriginal Australia, Dutch East India Company, colonialism and exploration, rock art, and the history of collecting in Western Australia in collaboration with the Western Australian Museum, State Library, Art Gallery, and the British Museum.




Julie Dowling

Dr Carol Dowling Carol Dowling currently freelances at Noongar Radio 100.9, previously holding a Senior Research Assistant position with the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.  She has worked as lecturer for over 27 years at Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and University of Western Australia specialising in Aboriginal arts, indigenous research methodologies/postgraduate studies, Indigenous human rights, politics and culture. Carol holds a Bachelor of Arts (Aboriginal & Intercultural Studies) from Edith Cowan University and a Master of Arts (Indigenous Research and Development) from Curtin University. Carol holds a doctorate in Social Sciences from Curtin University. Her area of PHD research is an auto-ethnography of five generations of Badimia women in her maternal family.






Carol Dowling

Dr Julie Dowling is a renowned Artist who works in a social realist style. Dowling draws on diverse art traditions including European portraiture and Christian icons, mural painting, dotting and Indigenous Australian iconography. Dowling works like an ethnographer, recording the deep-seated injustices in the Indigenous community. The featured image for this event is a work by Julie Dowling titled Dyilima Gabi (Carrying Water) and is described by Dowling as " image of two unknown young women walking water from a well or river for the use of their white boss men or lady. They carry tins full of water over their shoulders. This was a common job for many First Nation people as it was deemed a menial job for slave labour. This style of slave labour had already been universally outlawed in the 1860’s throughout the world but was still in effect in Australia up until the 1970’s. It could be argued that modern slavery of First Nations people still continues today.





Professor Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at The University of Western Australia. She is concerned with the history of Australia’s engagement with anti-slavery, humanitarianism, and ultimately human rights. Her work has contributed to decolonizing heritage and academic practice, with a strong impact on debates regarding colonialism and Australian legacies of imperialism and slavery. She currently leads the 'Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery' team project, which seeks to analyse Australian legacies of British slave-ownership by tracing the movement of people, capital and culture from the Caribbean to the settler colonial world. Her most recent book Anti-slavery and Australia: No Slavery in a Free Land? (Routledge, 2021) explores the anti-slavery movement in imperial scope, arguing that colonization in Australasia facilitated emancipation in the Caribbean, even as abolition powerfully shaped the Settler Revolution.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice 

The voice referendum symbol for community, three multicoloured palms holding each other

In late 2023, Australians will have their say in a referendum about whether to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. 

Be ready for the conversation, become informed at

Audio file
Thursday 13 July 2023