Stephens, David: Hidden in plain sight: Aboriginal massacre map should be no surprise

David Stephens

Hidden in plain sight: Aboriginal massacre map should be no surprise‘, Pearls and Irritations, 7 July 2017 updated

Follow-up to Professor Lyndall Ryan’s map, unveiled at the Australian Historical Association conference, of settler massacres of Indigenous Australians. The piece speculates about the likely responses of settler Australians to the map, suggesting these would range from a denial of responsibility, through concern that these matters were not known previously (the article points out that the research has been around for decades for those who have cared to look for it and take it in), to creating a diversion (by pointing to uncovered facts about Indigenous service in uniform), to recognising that the fact of Indigenous dispossession lies at the root of the situation of Aboriginal people today.

Pearls and Irritations is run by John Menadue, one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters. The article is republished on Crikey. More from Paul Daley in Guardian Australia.

There is an interesting comment from Bruce Cameron, noting the agreement of the Department of Defence to change a public statement that Sister Fanny Hines, an Australian nurse who died in 1900 serving in the Boer War, was the first Australian woman to die on active service. Defence took Bruce Cameron’s point that Indigenous women had died in defence of country and agreed to amend the statement to read ‘Sister Fanny Hines was the first Australian nurse to die on active operational service overseas’. Moreover, Defence intends to publish the following response to Bruce Cameron:

Thank you for your letter and for raising this important issue. After seeking guidance from historians at the Australian War Memorial and prominent military historian Prof Peter Stanley, I acknowledge your concern that by publishing the statement “Sister Fanny Hines was the first Australian woman to die on active service”, we excluded a number of Indigenous women who died during the Frontier Wars after European settlement in Australia. As you rightly point out, a more accurate statement is that Sister Fanny Hines was the first Australian nurse to die on active operational service overseas. Thank you for taking the time to write to Army News. Managing Editor.

As the song says, ‘from little things’ big things grow’. We’ll see. (We’ll add a link to Army News when the response appears.)

Update 8 July 2017: NAIDOC Week brings Minister Tehan press release on recognising Indigenous service in uniform ‘from the Boer War through to present-day conflicts’; nothing about Indigenous warriors protecting country way back.

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