The history of the Frontier Conflict in Queensland is being unearthed and exposed through a new archive that links together thousands of documents and artefacts to tell the story of the Native Mounted Police.
Showcasing how the Indigenous and European early police force worked and operated in Queensland before it became a state, the archive was launched on December 9 at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.
Comprised of 11,000 documents that host information on over 200 Native Mounted Police camps, 12,000 artefacts, 400 officers, 850 troopers and 1,800 frontier conflict events across Queensland within the 19th century, the Frontier Conflict and the Native Mounted Police archive in Queensland Database is enormous.
The creation of the archive was led by the research of Flinders University archaeologist, Associate Professor Heather Burke which was supported by a three-year Australian Research Council Discovery grant.
This grant enabled Professor Burke to track movements through the identification and examination of campsites, which were distanced away from towns.
“From historical records, we know of nearly 200 Native Police camp sites across Queensland and now have found 17 of them,” Professor Burke said.
Research was also undertaken collaboratively with University of Southern Queensland, Flinders University, University of Notre Dame, James Cook University and Northern Archaeology Consultancies.
Professor Burke worked closely with Dr Lynley Wallis, senior researcher at the University of Notre Dame in Broome, and Professor Bryce Barker from the University of Southern Queensland to examine the ways in which the Indigenous and European early police force operated.
This research uncovered the Native Mounted Police’s reputation for strongly defending pastoralist pioneers – which included shootings of Indigenous people.
“The first systematic archaeological study of the Queensland Native Mounted Police focuses on material evidence for the activities, living and working conditions of Aboriginal troopers, the relationships between them and European officers, and the oral histories of conflict held by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” Professor Burke said.
“By combining material, oral and historical evidence from a range of sites across central and northern Queensland, we can understand more fully the labour, lives and legacies of the Native Police.”
“It provides an alternative lens through which to understand the nature of frontier conflict, initiates new understandings of the Aboriginal and settler experience and contributes to global studies of Indigenous responses to colonialism.”
Professor Barker also noted the archive begins to debunk the myth of non-resistant settlement and provides an avenue for truth-telling about history.
“The fact that a paramilitary force had to be maintained in Queensland for this period is testimony to the scale of resistance by Aboriginal people, to the theft of their land,” Professor Barker said.
The database is accessible to the public at www.frontierconflict.org.