Turner, Ross: John Maynard says Frontier Wars deserve Canberra memorial

Ross Turner

John Maynard says Frontier Wars deserve Canberra memorial‘, NITV Living Black, 2 August 2022

Extensive interview by Karla Grant of Professor John Maynard of the University of Newcastle, a Worimi man from the Port Stephens region of New South Wales. Video. Professor Maynard was speaking following the Prime Minister’s statement at the Garma Festival. The article delves deeply into his life and his work as a historian.

Professor Maynard’s remarks about the need for proper acknowledgement of the Frontier Wars are particularly important, given his previous work on Indigenous service in uniform. Professor Maynard has been a member of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and was a contributing author to the 2018 book, Serving Our Country: Indigenous Australians, War, Defence and Citizenship, ‘the first comprehensive history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in the Australian defence forces’. He has been researching Indigenous service people since 1988 and points to the growth of knowledge since then about Indigenous service. ‘Back then … there were 230 Aboriginal men who’d served in the First World War. Well, that number now has grown to over 1,000. So now we are hearing about their sacrifices for their so-called country. It’s incredible.’

‘There’s still that denial of frontier war [in Australia]’, he said, however. ‘The reality is, it’s a part of the history: you can’t sweep it under the carpet, you’ve got to deal with that history and then hopefully heal from it.’

‘We’ve been in conflict since they [the British] first arrived here, you know, and it’s had a horrific impact onto our lives … Only six decades after the British arrival, 60 to 90% of our people were dead through disease and war.’

While the Australian War Memorial has said it will increase its collection items related to frontier violence, Professor Maynard wants it to do more. ‘[Aboriginal warriors] fought for their families, they fought for their communities, they fought for their country. They need to be recognized and they deserve that recognition of what they stood for.’

‘[A Frontier Wars memorial] should be part of the Australian War Memorial. When you look up that driveway and they’ve got monuments to the Boer War, and they’ve got monuments to Korea and Vietnam, how about a monument to the Frontier Wars as well.’

‘Instead of having a monument up the back up the hill [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service memorial on Mt Ainslie], it should be covered in the Australian War Memorial. Take it to that next level. Be brave about it, you know, be courageous. Don’t be frightened.’

Professor Maynard welcomed growing political acknowledgement of the Frontier Wars but said politicians need to go further. ‘When are we going to get a politician brave enough to stand up, or a political group to stand up and support us and take the country forward? That’s what’s needed.’

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