Contributed by Ben Wilson
Evidence released by Prof Lyndall Ryan and her team at the University of Newcastle’s colonial frontier massacres map project, should be a prod to re-examine Australian history and ditch the Captain Cook version taught in schools for a long time. The truth is a history of invasion and dispossession of the First Nations people who already inhabited the land.
The project’s findings show that the process of dispossession involved a cruel a war waged by the occupiers, against those they were trying to remove. The team put together an extensive map of massacre sites. The collective horrors of these stories are an indictment of a colonisation involving the attempted extermination of the first Australians.
Map of massacre sites identified by the University of Newcastle project
These massacres can’t be trivialised by suggesting that they happened a long time ago. The latest documented one is an attempted massacre in Alice Springs during 1981, through giving poisoned water.
More successful massacres took place in the, 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. They continued a tradition that had become well established
A common thread through history is that the perpetrators were never punished. This indicates the tacit approval by the authorities for the killings. Sometimes the police participated in the killings.
Evidence comes from accounts often made by perpetrators who knew they had immunity, police records, and oral testimonies.
There remains a code of silence and most of Australia is ignorant of the routine of killings. This is what must change. This is not about the collective guilt of non-indigenous Australia. Only a few participated in these acts and most too far removed from the truth. The purpose for breaking the silence understand what happened, why it happened, and to acknowledge the just cause of the descendants of the victims.
Behind everything, is the reality that the First Fleet didn’t just land and have everything handed over to it. The colonisation of the land involved a series of frontier wars, where the First Nations peoples waged resistance against an occupation. They fought to defend their way of life, and mostly, the power to determine their own lives. Massacres were punishment for not accepting domination.
Despite the odds, the First Nations survived and continue to fight for recognition, sovereignty, and self-determination. There is still reluctance to allow this, and abuses of basic rights continue. Australia must come to terms with this to ensure to put an end to the abuses and work towards a better future.
Making right the damage caused by the massacres and other abuses means helping to make the transfer of power to the First Nations over their own affairs become a reality.