The use of restraints on Australian Aboriginal people had its inception in the early colonial period and continued well into the twentieth century. Despite condemnation in England, local opinion as to the desirability and efficacy of this practice was divided. This article explores the materiality of these restraints. It argues that chaining Aboriginal people was predicated not only on their presenting a bigger ‘flight risk’ than other prisoners, but that wider economic considerations provide an explanatory framework for understanding the delay between the denunciation of chaining practices and their eventual discontinuation. This article has been peer-reviewed.