Now in development, the next companion episode, Caribbean Colonial Migrants in Australia will look at the stories of three unique nineteenth-century characters: Gilbert Robertson Esquire, an outspoken constable and journalist who was one of the first to acknowledge Indigenous-White conflict as being a colonial war (and not illegal sabotage); Susannah Andrews, a once enslaved woman who rose up in colonial society and whose children founded enduring institutions; and Peter Jackson, one of Australia’s first global sport stars.
From diverse Caribbean islands, they migrated to different Australian colonies, expanding the terrain and historical context around which Caribbean stories have coalesced. And, unlike the slaves-turned-convicts in the first podcast, who were forced to make Australia home, these Caribbean migrants of colour travelled freely to Australia and made a life for themselves and their families here.
The listener will follow Sienna, herself a migrant, as she uncovers their life stories and reveals their contributions to Australian life. These biographical vignettes will provide new insight into the relationships and experiences of men and women of colour in the Anglo-colonial world.
CARIBBEAN CONVICTS IN AUSTRALIA
While working as a guide at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney based, Jamaican novelist Sienna Brown discovered several convict indents of men from the Caribbean. This was at odds with the largely Anglo-Celtic story about convicts that fill our history books. This discovery sent her on a decade-long quest to learn more about them and to reimagine the lives they lived.
In the Caribbean Convicts in Australia podcast, Co-produced with Dr Ben Etherington, the listener follows Sienna on her research journey, as she discovers the presence of these Caribbean men in the convict database at Hyde Park Barracks. As the research deepens, Sienna discovers that the men were slaves and takes the listener into the world of life on a British sugar cane plantation.
Coming full circle, Sienna uncovers what their lives were like while serving their convict sentences, until in some cases their evidential freedom and mergence into rural Australian life. Throughout the program, Sienna also reflects on her own passage from Jamaica to Australia a hundred and fifty years later.
The men’s lived experiences of slavery and convict-hood, are brought to life using layered archival material from the period, interviews with experts and descendants, on-location soundscapes and descriptions, along with, excerpts from Brown’s award-winning historical fiction novel Master Of My Fate to give voice to the convicts’ inner lives.
The story of progressive discovery gives the program a strong narrative arc, but its main purpose is to immerse listeners in the world of these convict men so they can imagine for themselves what life might have been like as slaves and convicts and come to understand the challenges they faced in becoming masters of their destinies. It also allows for reflection on how this might change our view of Australia’s early colonial history.
The full draft script of the program has been prepared with funding support from the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University and is available on request.