Stephens, David: Uluru Statement shows the way on Australian Frontier Wars

David Stephens

Uluru Statement shows the way on Australian Frontier Wars‘, Pearls and Irritations, 18 August 2022

‘We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country’ (Uluru Statement)

Empowerment grows not just from documents, even important ones like the Australian Constitution, but from embedding and reflection in the places, abstract and concrete, where we live our lives, the places where we find or affirm what it means to be Australian. That is, indeed, taking ‘a rightful place’.

‘They [our children] will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country’ (Uluru Statement)

The [War] Memorial should grasp the common thread between the Frontier Wars and our overseas wars: Defence of Country. Defence of their Country by First Nations warriors. Defence of their country, Australia, by uniformed soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and nurses, some of them Indigenous. Defence of Country is the common history that belongs to all of us, and that the Memorial should recognise and commemorate.

‘We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history’ (Uluru Statement)

The truth about how settler-invaders took Australia from the First Australians needs to be told without varnishing or dissembling. Poisoned water in the Frontier Wars is as much a weapon as a machine gun on the Western Front, and its use needs to be honestly described. High-powered rifles against spears would not have been a pretty sight but it needs to be confronted. Women and children and old men died in the Frontier Wars, just as civilians died in the great wars of the twentieth century and in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

In the confronting there will be great benefits. Until we see Indigenous history and culture – all of it, including the Frontier Wars – as a key part of Australian history and culture, as Eualeyai-Kamillaroi historian Professor Larissa Behrendt wrote in 2017, ‘we will never have found a way to truly share this colonised country’.

Earlier material on this subject.

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