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The Pearl FrontierIndonesian Labor and Indigenous Encounters in Australia's Northern Trading Network$
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Julia Martínez and Adrian Vickers

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824840020

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824840020.001.0001

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The Birth of the Pearling Zone, 1860–1890

The Birth of the Pearling Zone, 1860–1890

(p.21) Chapter Two The Birth of the Pearling Zone, 1860–1890
The Pearl Frontier

Julia Martínez

Adrian Vickers

University of Hawai'i Press

In the 1860s European pearling masters employed Pacific Islanders and Aboriginal peoples as laborers. With allegations of kidnapping, however, protection laws were put in place, forcing them to look for new sources of labor. British explorers had already demonstrated that the Netherlands East Indies was within easy reach of the pearling ports. The Dutch colonial government did not object to Australians recruiting from the islands around Timor. Large-scale recruitment followed and Indonesian workers were established along the north coast of Australia. A Malaytown developed on Thursday Island; Roebourne Bay saw its "Malay" population expand from 100 in 1870 to nearly 1,000 by 1875. The exploitation of Indonesian labor was set against stories of ruthless Malay pirates, while racial understandings promulgated by Alfred Russel Wallace, were used to justify the idea of Indonesians as innately suitable to become cheap labor in this dangerous maritime profession.

Keywords:   Pacific Islanders, Aboriginal, explorers, George Windsor Earl, Aru Islands, Pacific Islanders Protection Act, Netherlands East Indies, recruitment, Western Australia, Darwin, racial thinking

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