Unpaid wages: the experiences of Irish Magdalene Laundries and Indigenous Australians

James Gallen*, Kate Gleeson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper will evaluate the obstacles faced by victim-survivors of historical abuse, particularly victim-survivors of forced labour in Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and the stolen wages of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, in a post-colonial transitional justice framework. First, the paper identifies challenges in contextualising comparative interdisciplinary historical research in terms of transitional justice. Second, the paper considers the economic contribution of unpaid labour in the Australian and Irish contexts and, third, goes on to examine the historical denial of rights and redress in both settings. The paper then evaluates the different challenges in responding to legacies of historical abuse, especially unpaid wages in both states. A final section concludes with the argument that redress provided in both instances represents a form of paternalism perpetuating the colonial approach to governance, rather than the provision of the legal rights of citizens, and that this paternalism has specific implications for women who continue to be marginalised by contemporary regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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