Daley, Paul: As the toll of Australia’s frontier brutality keeps climbing, truth telling is long overdue

Paul Daley

As the toll of Australia’s frontier brutality keeps climbing, truth telling is long overdue‘, Guardian Australia, 4 March 2019 updated

Major article on our continuing neglect of killings of Indigenous Australians from 1788 till at least 1928. Examines the work of Henry Reynolds, Raymond Evans, Robert Ørsted-Jensen and others, the efforts of Indigenous activists like AM Fernando and Douglas Grant, and infamous massacres like Kalkadoon and Coniston.

The article marks the release of an interactive map provided by the Colonial Frontier Massacres Project at the University of Newcastle under Emeritus Professor Lyndall Ryan. (For earlier material on this use our Honest History Search engine with term ‘Lyndall Ryan’. Update 28 November 2019: Walkley Award for reporting on this subject.)

Learning about this history will come as a shock to some [say the Guardian‘s Lorena Allam and Nick Evershed]. But Australians trying to move past blame or guilt are coming forward now in greater numbers, and their voices are only growing louder.

“We have done a lot already to make sure nobody has an excuse to stay ignorant,” Francis Jupurrurla Kelly [descendant of a survivor of the Coniston massacre in 1928] says. “It’s now time for governments and others to do their bit to tell the truth and help us move forward together.”

Till the end of 2017, as part of our special subject ‘First Peoples’, Honest History collected material related to massacres. Also use our Search engine with terms like ‘Frontier Wars’, ‘massacres’ and ‘Coniston’. Courtesy of Humphrey McQueen, we also have his early work on massacres, which goes back as far as that of Henry Reynolds. See also this in March 2019 from Ben Wilkie on the historiography of massacres and this further collection of resources. ABC program refers.

When looking at death statistics, this material makes the point that, if Indigenous deaths in fighting and massacres amount to around 100 000, as is plausible, that is about the same number as have died in our other wars, the overseas ones. Another point should be just as obvious: why do many of us mutter ‘Lest We Forget’ about khaki-clad dead soldiers decades ago overseas, yet try to brush aside Indigenous deaths at home as something that happened long ago and for which we today cannot be blamed?

There’s a third point, too. Do some of us somehow try to compensate for that brushing aside by making much of the deaths of Indigenous soldiers who put on the King’s or Queen’s uniform and fought alongside the descendants of the people who had dispossessed them? On that point, see particularly this piece on how the Australian War Memorial’s purchase of a piece of Indigenous art reveals that institution’s tortured approach to recognising Indigenous military service.

David Stephens

4 March 2019 updated

Click here for all items related to: ,