RICHARD BROINOWSKI. Matching Colonial Wars

The record of British colonial history proves that what occurred to Aboriginal Australian communities at the hands of white settlers and British military forces was not a unique event. The same thing occurred with as much inhumanity and ferocity in other parts of the Empire, notably in South Africa against the Khoi, the Xhosa and the Zulus. The difference is that the Xhosa and the Zulus, if not the Khoi, had a fierce warrior-like mentality and were able not only to defend themselves effectively, but frequently to invade white settler areas, torching their farms and killing their inhabitants. Hence eight very bloody frontier wars followed between 1779 and 1853. If Australians were more aware of the similarities,  denialist Australian academics like Keith Windshuttle would not be able to get away with his white-wash of Australian settler history as easily as they do.

Lyndall Ryan and Henry Reynolds have done us all a great service by mapping the massacres of Aborigines and where they occurred – a resounding rebuttal of the outrageous claims made by revisionists and black arm-band name-callers like Keith Windshuttle, that many of them did not occur. David Stephens has picked this up already in Pearls and Irritations, saying that this new evidence shows that rather than ending in the 1920s, such massacres may have continued into the 1960s.

What few Australians are aware of is that what happened to Aboriginal communities followed the same pattern of British colonial subjugations elsewhere, and at the same time. I refer particularly to South Africa.

The British took the Cape Colony from the Dutch with armed force in 1803 during the Napoleonic Wars. At the time, Holland, the original coloniser of the Cape, was a satrapy of France, occupied by a French army and ruled by Napoleon’s younger brother. So the British saw Dutch colonies as fair game. As they did with their Australian colonies, the British actively encouraged English migrants to settle in the Cape. Thousands did, as well as Dutch, French, German and Swiss settlers. They began moving in groups north and east from Cape Town to find fresh grazing lands for their cattle and sheep herds. They were immediately engaged in armed conflict with the Xhosa nations who occupied the territory east of the Great Fish River. Eight so-called frontier wars followed, the last in 1852-3, with massacres and atrocities on both sides. The autocratic and heavy-handed Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, eventually comprehensively defeated the Xhosa warriors in the Transkei and Ciskei. He either tried to turn the Xhosa into civilised’ people with Christian values, and tended to slaughter them if they resisted. The frontier wars were followed by the Zulu Wars of 1879-96, bringing about the complete subjugation of the Zulu Kingdom.

The Boer Wars followed against the Dutch settlers, and eventually, the imposition of apartheid, a process described by Henry Reynolds in Unnecessary Wars (2016).

These British wars of oppression against inhabitants in South Africa occurred in exactly the same time-frame as those in Australia: similar military mentality, similar settlers, same indoctrination, same training, same contempt for the locals. The only difference was that the Xhosa were much better armed and organised than the Australian Aborigines, and put up a much sterner resistance. The Khoi khoi, called ‘Hottentots’ by European settlers in imitation of the peculiarities of their spoken language, were less combative,  and were suppressed by Europeans and Xhosa alike. With their distaste for violence and confrontation, and their wish simply to continue to follow their nomadic existence, the Khoi were more like most Australian Aboriginal communities. The experience of the indigenes in both countries has naturally caused great sadness and enormous resentment.

Richard Broinowski, former Australian diplomat and author, is writing the official biography of E W Cole, a famous bookseller, rationalist, anti-White Australia campaigner and philosopher in Victorian Melbourne.


Richard Broinowski is a former diplomat. He was also manager of Radio Australia. After retirement he was an adjunct professor at University of Sydney in media studies. He has written four books, and is bringing a fifth out this year (2020), on the life and times of Melbourne book seller Edward William Cole.

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3 Responses to RICHARD BROINOWSKI. Matching Colonial Wars

  1. alan says:

    ‘I refer particularly to South Africa.’

    Returned Boer War vets, civilian and police, led the Forrest River massacre[s]

    ‘He enlisted with the 1st Regiment, Brabant’s Horse at Elandsfontein, South Africa on 12 July 1900 as a trooper, was engaged in operations against the Boers in the Orange Free State and Transvaal and discharged at Cape Town on 30 November 1901 as a sergeant. He was awarded the Queen’s South African Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Transvaal and South Africa 1901 on 2 February 1907 (London (UK) Public Record Office Series Attestation papers WO 128 and Medal Roll WO 100). Interestingly, Richard Henry Pilmer who also ultimately served as a police officer in the Kimberley was a member of the Third Western Australian Bushman’s Contingent, rising to the rank of Company Sergeant Major..’

  2. Cavan hogue Cavan hogue says:

    I just watched a Hollywood film of the early 1950s which made it very clear that the Indians were savages who were doomed because any massacres they got away with would soon be returned by the waves of settlers who would keep arriving and going West. This was set in colonial times. The give me liberty or give me death brigade obviously didn’t apply liberty to the Indians but death was certainly on the agenda. It seems that not only Albion perfide was hypocritical but all her sons too, including us. Mind you, the other Europeans weren’t any better. nor the Japanese nor any other strong power that got the chance to screw the weak. Gengiz Khan and Tamerlane were not social workers either. As Oscar Wilde observed, we owe it to history to reinvent it.

  3. derrida derider says:

    Yep . There’s a reason the Irish appellation for the Union Jack is “the butcher’s apron”.
    Or as Ambrose Bierce in the Devil’s Dictionary was already noting sardonically by the 1890s:
    “Aborigines, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.”

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