The new government has a lot to do. Here’s one thing that it could do, quickly and decisively, using existing mechanisms: fill some of the proposed new space at the Australian War Memorial with a Frontier Wars Gallery, commemorating the deaths of perhaps 60 000 First Australians in wars and massacres between 1788 and at least 1928.
This letter went last week to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Matt Keogh), with copies to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Australians (Linda Burney), and the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (Senator Pat Dodson).
The Hon. Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Congratulations on your becoming Minister for Veterans Affairs. The new government has the opportunity to take up a number of issues which have languished.
You will know that Australia’s Frontier Wars took the lives of upwards of 60 000 Indigenous Australians (and much smaller numbers of settlers and police) during the years from 1788 to at least 1928. Proper recognition of the Frontier Wars at the Australian War Memorial would be important Truth-telling in line with the Uluru Statement: for too long many Australians have turned away from these events.
There is an opportunity to create a Frontier Wars Gallery as part of the extensions to the Memorial which are now under way. Such a gallery would build on the previous work of the Memorial, in the For Country, For Nation exhibition, the Memorial’s purchase of artworks depicting massacres of Indigenous Australians, and the increasing attention it has paid to Indigenous service in the King’s and Queen’s uniform after Federation.
The government could use two existing statutory mechanisms to ensure the creation of a Frontier Wars Gallery. First, you, as the Minister responsible for the Memorial, could write to the Council of the Memorial setting out the government’s firm view that the functions of the Memorial under section 5 of the Australian War Memorial Act 1980 (particularly the references to ‘Australian military history’) include the depiction and commemoration of the Frontier Wars.
Secondly, your letter could include the explicit expectation that the Memorial would use its annual reports under section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 to report its actions on the depiction and commemoration of the Frontier Wars, especially how and to what extent the enlarged space of the Memorial was being put to these purposes.
I urge you to work with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, and the Council of the Memorial to bring about a Frontier Wars Gallery at the Memorial. It is long overdue.
Given the importance the Prime Minister has placed on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, I am copying this letter to him and to the Minister for Indigenous Australians.
I am writing to you as editor of the Honest History website (nine years arguing that Australia is more than Anzac and always has been) and on behalf of the Heritage Guardians group, which campaigned against the $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial.
(Dr) David Stephens
Editor, Honest History website; on behalf of Heritage Guardians
17 June 2022
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 0413 867 972.
21 June 2022 updated