UNSHACKLED: Convict Resistance & Contribution to Democracy

In a pioneering digital exhibition titled UNSHACKLED, Monash University, in collaboration with Roar Film and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, delves into the often-overlooked history of convict resistance and its profound impact on the trajectory of Australian democracy. Opening its doors from March 13th to July 28th at the Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery, UNSHACKLED promises to be a transformative experience for visitors, offering a deeper understanding of Australia's convict past.

The exhibition sheds light on the untold stories of thousands of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish convicts who were transported to Australia, alongside individuals compelled into the convict system due to resistance against colonial invasion. Associate Professor Tony Moore, leading the project from Monash’s School of Media, Film, and Journalism, highlights the exhibition's focus on over 3,600 political prisoners transported to Australia for advocating democratic reform, media freedom, and anti-colonial revolution.

"Death or Liberty!" reverberated as the rallying cry of these political exiles, comprising a diverse array of rebels, radicals, and protesters. From English machine breakers to Irish revolutionaries, their collective impact resonates through the annals of Australian history, significantly contributing to the advancement of democracy.

Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart emphasises the exhibition's exploration of convict resistance against brutal coercion, revealing how Australia's unfree workforce fought back through inventive solidarity. With over 20 percent of Australians boasting convict ancestry and a staggering 70 percent figure for Tasmanians, UNSHACKLED confronts visitors with the harsh realities of forced migration and colonial capitalism's exploitation.

Steve Thomas, Creative Director of Roar Film, describes the exhibition as a groundbreaking multimodal experience, seamlessly blending traditional museum presentation with engaging storytelling techniques. Through mini-documentaries, large-scale animated projections, and interactive screen-based media, UNSHACKLED breathes life into historical narratives, immersing visitors in the themes of repression, exploitation, rebellion, and redemption.

Generously sponsored by the Mineworkers Trust and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, with foundational support from various organisations including the NSW Teachers Federation and Libraries Tasmania, UNSHACKLED stands as the penultimate public event of Conviction Politics. This four-year ARC Linkage Project led by Monash University has produced invaluable data visualisations, online resources, and teaching materials, enriching the educational landscape surrounding Australia's convict history.

Following its showcase in Tasmania, UNSHACKLED will embark on a national and international tour, reaching audiences across Australian capital cities, regions, as well as the UK and Ireland from September 2024 to 2026. As visitors immerse themselves in this groundbreaking exhibition, they are invited to reflect on the enduring legacy of convict resistance and its pivotal role in shaping the democratic fabric of modern Australia.

More info here.