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Union members invited to experience convict ancestry in free Unions Members Day at Unshackled Exhibition

Monash University 3 mins read

Media kit including imagery and videos available here

Unions Tasmania will host a free union members day of talks, films and music on Saturday 1 June at the ground-breaking exhibition Unshackled: the true convict story held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

The Monash University led Unshackled exhibition is a first-of-its kind digital exhibition that reveals a new understanding of the transported convicts’ contribution to the struggle for Australian democracy and for their fight for rights at work in an engaging, interactive story that features rare objects, augmented reality, video and song.

Union members and friends and family are encouraged to make it a day out with guided tours of the Unshackled exhibition.  

Unions Tasmania will also host two panel discussions on the convicts’ victory against the odds and how that tradition of collective resistance against exploitation of unfree labour can inspire workers today. Panellists will include representatives from Monash University, contributors to the Unshackled exhibition and Unions Tasmania. 

Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday said the day provided a great opportunity for Tasmanian workers to find out about their own history while enjoying a great day out. 

“With 70 per cent of Tasmanians being descended from the convicts who fought and eventually won basic rights we take for granted, the Unshackled exhibition is an opportunity for every Tasmanian worker to learn why standing up together for our rights at work is an integral part of who we are as Tasmanians and Australians,” Ms Munday said.

“Unshackled illuminates the problems facing workers in modern Australia, echoing those faced by the dispossessed people transported as unfree labour years ago. Issues including work visas that tie workers to single employers; privatisation; commercial profit of public goods and services; a political approach to imprisoning the vulnerable and those seeking safety in our country; technological advances that see workers’ movements tracked and place unreasonable demands on their personal time; and rampant wage theft.”

Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism and exhibition lead Associate Professor Tony Moore explained that Unshackled reveals how Australia’s unfree convict workforce of 160,000 collectively resisted the exploitation of their labour in their place of exile, leading to improved conditions, embryonic unionism and ultimately the end of transportation.

“Australia’s convict story is necessary to gain an understanding of our colonial background and the impact of dispossession – rehearsed in the British Isles and visited with maximum force on First Nations Australians. Its rich and diverse content provides context for understanding much about modern Australia, including continued use of indentured labour, propensity to lock up asylum seekers, workplace surveillance, automation, wage theft and the obstacles to constitutional change,” Associate Professor Moore said.


Media are invited to attend a media call at 9:30am on Saturday 1 June to hear from Unions Tasmania and Unshackled representatives as well as having an opportunity to tour the exhibition. 

Free tickets are available for union members as well as their friends and families here. Free exhibition tours can be booked when securing tickets, as well as tickets to the two panel sessions taking place between 1pm and 3pm. 

Unshackled is on exhibition from 13 March to 28 July at the Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery, before embarking on a national and international tour.

Click here for more information about Conviction Politics, including the UNSHACKLED trailer.

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Unshackled is created by Roar Film and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in partnership with Monash University. It is generously sponsored by the Mineworkers Trust and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, with Foundational funding from the NSW Teachers Federation, the Trade Union Education Foundation, Libraries Tasmania, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. Tens of thousands of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish convicts transported to Australia, as well as Indigenous people resisting colonial invasion and forced into the convict system, are brought back to life in a first-of-its kind digital exhibition revealing a new understanding of the convicts’ contribution to the struggle for Australian democracy.


Conviction Politics: Investigating the Convict Routes of Australian Democracy, was funded by an ARC Linkage project grant of $757,205 over four years, with a further $310,000 cash funding and $1,094,251 in-kind contributed by industry partners, including screen production house Roar Film, the NSW Teachers Federation, The Union Education Foundation, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the National Museum of Australia, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and in the UK the Trade Union Congress, the People's History Museum and the National Records of Scotland. The project’s university partners are Monash University, University of New England, the Australian Catholic University, Griffith University, University of NSW, University of Tasmania and internationally the University of South Wales and University College Dublin.


Media Enquiries:


Kim Loudon

Monash University Communications Manager

T: +61 458 281 704



Jessica Munday

Unions Tasmania Secretary

T: +61 417 454 809


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