The following extract ‘The Frontier War’ was part of an address that I gave in September 2013 for the launch of the Catholic Social Justice Statement. It was carried on this blog at the time. It was one of many blogs that I have posted concerning the Frontier War and also the Maori Wars. Our military association with New Zealand did not begin in 1915 at Gallipoli. It began when we sent ships and troops to fight against the Maori people in New Zealand in the mid 19th Century.
The Frontier War
We have still not properly acknowledged the great damage we have done to our indigenous people. Along with the Australian War Memorial, we still blot out the Frontier War that settlers and the settler parliaments conducted right across our country from 1790 to early last century to dispossess indigenous people. There are no monuments to this long war but even the AWM concedes that 2500 settlers and police died in the war alongside 20,000 aborigines who were “believed to have been killed chiefly by mounted police.” Informed and engaged scholars like Henry Reynolds in The Forgotten War now believe that the number of indigenous men, women and children killed was probably over 30,000. This was an epic war. Its purpose was the occupation and sovereignty over one of the great land masses of the world. It was to wrest control from a people who had lived here for 40,000 years. This was a war which was much more central to our future than any other war in which we fought. In proportion to our population in the 19th Century which was about 2 to 2.5 million people, this Frontier War was the most destructive of human life in our history. The A W M applauds indigenous people when they fought for the empire, but refuses to suitably acknowledge the 30,000 indigenous people that were killed resisting the empire that was taking their land. The AWM remembers the Sudan War of 1885 in which no Australians were killed in combat but ignores the Frontier War. We easily call to mind “Lest we forget” but it is really “best we forget” the 30,000 Australians who were killed in our Frontier War.
The “whispering in our hearts” will continue until we are honest about our history, both its glory and its shame. Political slogans about a “black armband view of our history” are designed to avoid the truth and encourage us to forget.