First Peoples April-June 2015

Update 30 June 2015: Factchecking whether there were people in Australia prior to Aboriginal people

Iain Davidson, refereed by Michael Westaway, refutes the suggestion of Senator Leyonhjelm. ‘The overwhelming weight of evidence’, says Davidson, ‘supports the idea that Aboriginal people were the first Australians’. Westaway supports this view.

Update 22 June 2015: fortified frontiers and white and black tactics

Ray Kerkhove looks at the evidence that both white and blacks in Queensland in the 1840s and 1850s built and manned fortified defences against each other.

Update 15 June 2015: The Secret River makes us ask about progress

Paul Daley reviews The Secret River ABC miniseries for Guardian Australia. Daley suggests people may ask ‘why pick at scabs?’ at a time when, for example, we are moving towards reconciliatory words being included in the Constitution.

There are many good reasons [he responds]. Not least is that by learning what happened we might understand how the legacy of extreme violence, dispossession and oppression manifests in an Indigenous Australia where some of the world’s worst social, economic and health disadvantage remains shamefully extant. The past aligns precisely with the present in today’s Aboriginal Australia, to the inescapable discomfort of the non-Indigenous.

Update 7 June 2015: war dances and real wars: Honest History First Peoples miscellany

Collection of articles on Gary Foley and Barrie Dexter, the British Museum exhibition, Jandamarra, Adam Goodes, Myall Creek and Fortress Campbell.

Update 20 May 2015: their centenary country: Honest History First Peoples miscellany

A collection of related articles 2014-15 touching on the Department of Defence, the Australian War Memorial, an Indigenous artist, ‘deficit discourse’, the Aurora Australis, Indigenous language, Adam Goodes, racism, constitutional recognition, and Pemulwuy.

Update 8 May 2015: British Museum Indigenous Australian exhibition

Maria Nugent writes in Inside Story about this controversial show.  ‘It is’, Nugent says, in an understatement, ‘no easy task to negotiate the intricate politics of history and memory when it comes to Australia’s colonial past, and critics and visitors can sometimes underestimate the challenge’. Paul Daley also wrote about the exhibition and related issues (Update 9 April below) and the Prince of Wales opened it, comparing the importance of Australia’s Indigenous heritage with that of Anzac.

Update 6 May 2015: reconciliation, please, but don’t mention the war

David Reid writes about an early incident in the Canberra area, involving First Australians and white settlers.

Update 29 April 2015: Anzac march restrictions on First Australians

Amy McQuire reports in New Matilda on confrontation between Australian Federal Police and First Australians seeking to join the Anzac Day march. It emerges from the video accompanying the article that the orders the police were following come from the RSL who are in charge of the Order of March.

Earlier, McQuire had written that Gallipoli could never define Australia like the Frontier Wars did. Henry Reynolds has written that the Frontier Wars were arguably our most important conflict.

So if we are talking about war, it was clearly one of the few significant wars in Australian history and arguably the single most important one. For Indigenous Australia it was their Great War (Reynolds, Forgotten War, p. 248)

Timothy Bottoms also wrote about the Frontier Wars in an Anzac centenary context while the Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (WGAR) produced a great list of resources, including many links.

Update 9 April 2015: British Museum battle

Paul Daley writes in Guardian Australia about the battle brewing at the British Museum over a new exhibition of some of the Museum’s 6000 Indigenous Australian artefacts. There are likely to be Indigenous protests over this exhibition and a related one in Canberra, particularly because new legislation stymies Indigenous moves to have artefacts repatriated.

An elegant exhibition catalogue does not attempt to sugar-coat the violence against and dispossession of the locals, who died in vast numbers (estimates vary from a conservative 20,000 to at least 60,000) in clashes with explorers, settlers, British soldiers and police until the last accepted massacre at Coniston, Northern Territory, in 1928. “The essential truth is that Aboriginal people were dispossessed from their land by force, their populations reduced by disease and violence, and their cultural beliefs and practices disrespected and sometimes destroyed.”

January-March 2015