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Lest we forget those who lost their lives in the Frontier Wars

Jess Whaler -

The Frontier Wars movement held the thirteenth annual wreath laying service on the grounds of the Australian War Memorial on ANZAC Day.

Professor Ghillar Michael Anderson, astronomer, activist and knowledge holder well known for his involvement in the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972, told National Indigenous Times it was a peaceful demonstration to honour the thousands of lives lost during the Frontier Wars.

Some historians have estimated more Indigenous people were killed during the Frontier Wars than Australian soldiers lost their lives in the First World War, but there is no formal national day of recognition of these deaths, and less is documented about the extent of the impact due to poor record keeping, combined with efforts in many cases to conceal the truth.

In recent years, historians have worked to piece together a history that has not been taught in schools - and has been denied by many.

Raymond Evans and Robert Ørsted-Jensen
from the University of Queensland have estimated that between 1820s until the early 1900s, in Queensland alone up to 65,000 Indigenous Australians were killed during the Frontier Wars.

A four-year project by Professor Lyndall Ryan at the University of Newcastle pieced together a digital map of the Frontier Wars, documenting where 150 massacres took place and an estimated number of deaths at each massacre.

It is worth noting that verbal accounts from surviving ancestors like that of the Minamurra River Massacre, detail greater numbers than some accounts that have been documented on this map.  

Mr Anderson told National Indigenous Times that supporters of the Frontier Wars movement will continue to march and make their presence felt to remind the general public that this is something that has been overlooked for too long.

Mr Anderson provided examples of massacres in which landowners would ask Aboriginal people to move off their own Country and they wouldn’t go, resulting in the landowners using violence to kill Indigenous people and drive the survivors away.

“That was not a program of genocide protected by governments, that was a private citizen. And there are many instances around country where a private citizen killed Aboriginal people, murdered them and so it all amounts to murder,” he said.

“There has always been this war on, and ours has been a war of resistance. Resisting the colonisers and those citizens from coming in and taking over their lands.

“And so, the part of the truth-telling program… needs to look very closely at these things. Our people were resisting so there’s this massive need to acknowledge that our people had a right to resist.”

Mr Anderson said the killings are a “shame”, and it is essential to “recognise that this was wrong”.

“People need to understand that this was wrong and that people have a right to protect themselves. The fact is that people suffered and died defending their right to roam their land, to live on their land and be who they are,” he said.

Mr Anderson said those who attended the Frontier Wars movement event on ANZAC Day “understand the need to have people recognised”.

“Canberra had the highest yes vote for the voice, so there is a lot of support in Canberra for Aboriginal people and they are much more politically aware of the need to make sure we all understand how we do this and how this works,” he said.

 

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