University of Newcastle researchers have mapped the sites of more than 150 massacres of Indigenous people in one of the most significant pieces of work ever undertaken on Australia’s frontier wars.
The map, launched this week, is based on colonial or settler accounts and Indigenous oral history and details thousands of deaths.
The first recorded killing happened in 1794, six years after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove, when a group of settlers killed seven or eight members of the Bediagal clan in reprisal for an attack on a settler and his servant.
The exact death toll from massacres and the frontier wars is unknown, but it runs in the hundreds of thousands.
More than 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed in massacres or conflicts between 1788 and 1930 in Queensland alone.
The overall numbers are staggering, but lead researcher Lyndall Ryan said they were conservative estimates.
Only events where six or more relatively defenceless people were killed have been counted as a massacre. Skirmishes and other violence were not.
To be included in the map, the massacre also needed to be verified by several sources, which usually meant it had to be mentioned in colonial or settler accounts.
Indigenous oral histories were included, but the very nature of the frontier wars mean they are often incomplete or have not been catalogued.
“You might get a little reference to a hunting party going off somewhere in a colonial newspaper, and a few years later there might be an account from a settler of seeing their neighbour going over the hill, going shooting,” Ms Ryan said.
“You have got to put the evidence together bit by bit by bit. It’s painstaking work.”
Ms Ryan said she hoped the map would change the way Australia viewed and taught its history.
“I would like to hope that over the next five or 10 years there will be a much wider acceptance that this was a feature of colonial Australia, and it will change the way we think about Australia,” she said.
Read more about the map and the disturbing history behind it, here. Story credit: University of Newcastle
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