Selden Society 2022 lecture series—lecture three: Kidnapping and slavery in Queensland: the ‘Jason’ and the ‘Hopeful’

Kidnapping and slavery in Queensland: the Jason and the Hopeful

Presented by Dr Andrew Stumer and Emeritus Professor Kay Saunders AO

Thursday 18 August
5.15pm for 5.30pm
Banco Court, Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law

Level 3, 415 George Street, Brisbane
(Or join the livestream via Zoom.)

With the rapid expansion of sugar production in Queensland in the second half of the 19th century, new sources of labour for the sugar plantations were sought. In 1871, the Supreme Court of Queensland upheld the conviction of Captain Coath of the schooner Jason for kidnapping nine South Sea Islanders to force them into servitude. Supporters of Captain Coath insisted the conviction was obtained through lies told by disgruntled crew members and a Government Inspector. Opponents of South Sea Islander labour pointed to the case as a symptom of widespread abuse.

In 1884, the crew of the Burns Philp vessel Hopeful was charged with murder and kidnapping of South Sea Islanders. An enormous public outcry ensued when the captain and mate were found guilty and sentenced to death. The following year, Premier Samuel Griffith, a loudly outspoken critic of the plantation system, established the Royal Commission to Enquire into Kidnapping in New Guinea Waters. It revealed the widespread extent of murder, kidnapping, rape and deception by crews of ships participating in the labour trade.


Dr Andrew Stumer is a barrister in practice in Brisbane, Queensland. He is the author of The Presumption of Innocence: Evidential and Human Rights Perspectives (Hart Publishing, 2010).

Emeritus Professor Kay Saunders AO FASSA FRSA FRHS (London) has published widely on global indentured labour systems and slavery. Her most recent project, conducted with Dr Denver Beanland AM, concerns a re-appraisal of Sir Samuel Griffith's political career.

Register to attend this free lecture in person.

Registrations close 11 August—please bring your ticket for quick check-in.

We will also be livestreaming the lecture: register to join this lecture via Zoom.

CPD points: 1 point per hour, self-assessed (BAQ and QLS)

For more information:

An image of two boars in the river, with the words 'Selden lecture three

Image: Schooner on the river with sails down and signal flags flying, 1901, State Library of Queensland