The ‘frontier wars’: Undoing the myth of the peaceful settlement of Australia


Lynette Russell

Professor and Director, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre

The ‘Mounted Police and Blacks’ lithograph depicts the massacre of the Gamilaraay people by British troops at Waterloo Creek,
southwest of Moree, New South Wales, in December 1837 and January 1838.

In February, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told Parliament that an Australian government had yet to acknowledge the nation’s true history. The section about the nationwide killing of Indigenous people by European invaders was usually missing.

“We have all failed,” Albanese said. “Truth must fill the holes of our national memory.”

The Aboriginal people who died at the hands of the settlers should be recognised, he said. “They, too, died for their loved ones. They, too, died for their Country. We must remember them, just as we remember those who fought more recent conflicts.”

Albanese also confirmed his support for the Makarrata Commission, part of the Uluru Statement of the Heart, released in May 2017 by the First Nations National Constitutional Convention.

A Makarrata Commission would tell the truth about how Australia was colonised, including the massacres of Indigenous people that took place all over the continent.

A month after Albanese’s speech, the Victorian government announced it would hold the nation’s first truth and justice commission – to tell a more complete story of the state’s colonisation, as part of its historic treaty process.

Monash Indigenous studies historian Professor Lynette Russell AM welcomed Albanese’s statement and the Victorian initiative.

“The myth of the peaceful settlement of Australia is something we need to undo, because we talk about reconciliation in Australia, but for the most part, we like to do it without truth,” she says.

“The War Memorial represents wars between nation states, and essentially wars between equals. In lots of ways, the frontier wars are anything but a war between equals.”

Australian history classes rarely include accounts of a violent frontier, and few monuments exist that tell the story of the Indigenous people who lost their lives in a conflict sometimes called “the frontier wars”.

Although work is being done to uncover the stories of Aboriginal resistance and to document Indigenous massacres, these accounts haven’t yet entered mainstream understanding, or bipartisan acceptance.

“We need to improve the historical literacy of Australians,” Professor Russell says. “It was not a mythic, peaceful settlement. It was an invasion. It had deep ramifications for Aboriginal people, their ongoing dispossession and alienation. If we want to undo some of that, or we want to move forward as a sophisticated, reconciled nation, then we’ve got some growing up to do.”

Plaque commemorating the NSW Red Rock (Blood Rock) massacre of indigenous people in the 19th century by colonists.
Plaques such as this, commemorating the Red Rock (Bloodrock) massacre by colonists of the Gumbaynngir people in New South Wales, are rare.

Some historians, including Henry Reynolds, have called for the story of the frontier wars to be incorporated into the Australian War Memorial. But Professor Russell isn’t sure the memorial is the best place to tell the story.

“I think it’s a really great debate, and it’s one a mature nation could have, and it could be really fruitful,” she says. “But it has to be done against the background of what, I think, is an obscene amount of money [$500 million] being spent on the War Memorial.”

Reynolds’ research estimated that up to 3000 Europeans and at least 20,000 Aboriginal Australians lost their lives in the frontier conflicts.

More recently, Raymond Evans, of the University of Queensland, has estimated that in this “largely unpublicised guerrilla war”, 66,680 Indigenous people lost their lives in 6000 attacks by settlers and native police in Queensland alone. Queensland was the most densely populated part of Australia pre-settlement, and the “epicentre of the struggle”, he says.

Read more: Australia’s history is complex and confronting, and needs to be known, and owned, now

He and colleague Robert Orsted Jensen arrived at this figure using methodology described here. If their estimate is correct, it would mean that the number of people who lost their lives in Queensland was more than the number of Australians who died in WWI (62,300). Evans puts the ratio of Aboriginal to settler deaths at 44:1.

“The War Memorial represents wars between nation states, and essentially wars between equals,” Professor Russell says. “In lots of ways, the frontier wars are anything but a war between equals.”

The one-sidedness of the conflict has been painstakingly recorded by historians at the University of Newcastle, led by Lyndall Ryan, who have made a map and searchable archive, Colonial Frontier Massacres of Australia, 1788 to 1930.

This research, which continues to expand, estimates 8391 Indigenous lives were lost in the massacres it has been able to verify, and 312 Europeans. Their sources included parliamentary papers, private journals and letters, newspaper articles, anthropological reports and Indigenous records – both oral and visual.

According to the archive, massacres were often planned events that took place in secret without witnesses. A code of silence in the immediate aftermath makes detection difficult – although survivors sometimes spoke out years later, when they believed the danger had passed.

“Should we redefine what we’re talking about, when we talk about the colonial period, as a period of war?” Professor Russell asks.

“Maybe it’s a different type of war, an undeclared war. People see their lands invaded. They see people come, stay, and take from them. Dispossession and dislocation – all follow on from that. Then it segues into the removal of children … then you remove culture and language.

“In a way, it almost dignifies them to put them in the War Memorial as though, somehow, this is equal to attempting to land on the beaches at Gallipoli.”

Not a war in the Western sense

Although Indigenous people sometimes protected their borders, had rivalries with other tribes, or conducted raiding parties, they didn’t wage war in the Western sense. “They were doing something different,” Professor Russell says.

“People often say, ‘The Maori people fought back, and Aboriginal people didn’t.’ That’s absolutely not true. We know Aboriginal people fought back.

“[But] If you read, particularly, some of the work on the frontier wars, you do start to get this idea of Aboriginal people creating skirmishes, plotting, and planning in the ways we expect Western war to proceed. They are battle-ready, and they’re working out the best strategies for this.

“Now, they might have been doing that, but my fear is, because you’ve already got in your mind the view of the noble soldier, you then ascribe that to Aboriginal people, who are retaliating against the invasion in their land on their terms, not the European terms. That makes it really quite tricky to then turn around and say, ‘Oh, look, it’s war as we recognise it.’”

An exterior courtyard of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra
There’s debate about the appropriateness of the story of the frontier wars being incorporated into the Australian War Memorial.

During the Eumeralla Wars – a protracted conflict between the Gunditjmara people in what’s now known as Victoria’s Western District, British colonists and police, the Aboriginal resistance was regularly reported in the press, Professor Russell says.

Indigenous people “fought back in various ways. They fought back overtly. They actually, literally, attacked settlers’ huts. Particularly, if you’re a shepherd on the outskirts of a station, then you could be in a lot of trouble, but they had to be very careful in how they managed their retaliation …

“There’s also covert retaliation – retaliation that the settlers might not have even seen, including the use of sorcery and magic, to influence people.”

The siege mentality

In the mid-19th century, colonists recognised that “they were under siege”, she says. “It was commonly spoken of. It was also common for settlers to talk about the validity of Aboriginal people trying to protect the land … Trying to chase off the invaders. It was part of the general writing. People wrote it in their diaries. They wrote it in letters to the newspaper. They would say things like, ‘Who can blame them. We’ve taken this from them.’”

But by the turn of the century, this conversation about Aboriginal resistance all but vanished from public view, she says.

“I think it’s tied into the dying-race paradigm, where, suddenly, everybody thinks Aboriginal people are dying out. It smooths the pillow of the dying race … humanitarianism comes to the forefront.

“Aboriginal people are needing protection. They’re needing to be looked after, but there’s also an anticipation they will go away – as in, they’ll disappear. They will be absorbed into the wider population. They’ll become white, or they’ll die out.”

In reality, Indigenous people were herded onto protectorates, deprived of their liberty, punished for talking in their own language, and their children were taken away. “It’s out of sight, out of mind,” Professor Russell says.

She hopes that during the Victorian truth and justice commission “these stories of dispossession, and violence, and all the rest, can be captured, kept, and held in posterity. People in the future will know what happened here. To me, that’s the most important thing we really need.”



SAMSN online support group

Guys – an online support group that SAMSN are running, in case you are interested. I got info on it through an email from another Counsellor (BlueKnot)! Absolutely no pressure to join, It’s just in case it’s something you’re interested in… (6pm-8pm may be Daylight Savings time, which we’ll check on before then)

Mon 21st Feb is in just over 1 & 1/2 wks away. This should be a wonderful chance for you guys! You’re definitely not alone.


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Child abuse

3-minute read Listen

Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.

Child abuse is any behaviour that harms or could harm a child or young person, either physically or emotionally. It does not matter whether the behaviour is intentional or unintentional.

There are different types of child abuse, and many children experience more than one type:

  • Physical abuse: using physical force to deliberately hurt a child.
  • Emotional abuse: using inappropriate words or symbolic acts to hurt a child over time. 
  • Neglect: failing to provide the child with conditions needed for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
  • Sexual abuse: using a child for sexual gratification.
  • Exposure to family violence: when a child hears or sees a parent or sibling being subjected to any type of abuse, or can see the damage caused to a person or property by a family member’s violent behaviour.

Children are most often abused or neglected by their parents or carers of either sex. Sexual abuse is usually by a man known to the child — a family member, a friend or a member of the school or church community.

Child abuse can affect a child’s physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development through to adulthood.

Recognising the signs of child abuse is important. There may be physical, emotional or behavioural signs such as:

  • broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts
  • not wanting to go home
  • creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse
  • being hungry and begging, stealing or hoarding food

You should report suspected child abuse to the relevant authority in your state or territory, even if you are not certain it’s happening. This is called a notification.

Child protection systems vary depending on which state and territory you live in. This includes definitions of when a child requires protection and when authorities will intervene. 

Some occupations are legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to government authorities. The laws are different between states and territories but the most common occupations are teachers, doctors, nurses and police.

Getting help

If you have hurt your child, or feel like you might hurt them, call Lifeline on 131 114.

If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

If you are an adult who experienced abuse as a child, call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or visit their website at

For more information on child abuse visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies website. 


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare(Child protection), is child abuse?), Kids Helpline(Homepage), Queensland Government(About child abuse), Australian Institute of Families(Reporting child abuse and neglect: Information for service providers), Blue Knot Foundation(For survivors of childhood trauma and abuse), Australian Institute of Families(What is child abuse and neglect?)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018


Coronavirus COVID-19: Why some people panic-buy and self-isolate while others aren’t worried

ABC Life / By Kellie Scott
We’re being told not to touch our face, but many of you might feel like hiding from the coronavirus.(Pexels: Anna Shvets/ABC Life: Luke Tribe)

Natalie has decided not to see her partner while the spread of the coronavirus in Australia continues.

The Mackay local in her 30s is symptom-free and has not had any known contact with an infected person, but is keeping her daughter home from school. She’s also stocked up on food and other supplies.

“My partner and I have different views … he isn’t taking the coronavirus seriously,” she says.

“We are not leaving the house, and because he is out there exposing himself in many ways, like going to the gym, I have had to make the choice not to have contact with the person I love.”

Natalie works from home, which it makes it easier for her to self-isolate. She’s asked her daughter’s school to provide homework, and plans to reassess the situation in a few weeks’ time.

“It’s putting a little strain on our relationship, but we’re trying to respect each other’s decisions and wait it out.”

As humans we all react to crisis differently, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever be in complete agreeance about an appropriate emotional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What we can do is be more compassionate about where other people are coming from.

We asked the experts why are some of us stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitiser, while others scroll social media wondering what the all the fuss is about.

How is coronavirus impacting your relationships with family and friends? Email

It begins with how risk-averse you are

People in Australia are generally in a strong position to fight coronavirus due to our population size, health outcomes and good diet.

If you are at greater risk, such as you are over 65 or have pre-existing conditions like heart disease, it’s reasonable to take extra precautions.

Toilet paper panic – On my regular trip to the supermarket yesterday, there was not a single roll of toilet paper to be found.

For most of us, our emotional response will largely come down to how risk-averse we are, explains David Savage, associate professor of behavioural economics at the University of Newcastle.

“On one end you have the people who are absolutely risk-averse; will go out of their way to avoid risk. These people will always have insurance even for the most bizarre things,” he says.

“They are the people panic-buying.

“At the other end you have what I would classify as risk-seeking people, otherwise known as teenage boys.”

What Dr Savage suggests we should all be aiming for is to be risk-neutral. Good at weighing up odds and responding accordingly.

But he acknowledges that can be difficult given how hard-wired risk aversion is for many of us.

“This aversion is not something we switch on and off, it’s part of our innate nature.”

He says telling people to be less risk-averse is like telling someone to stop being anxious.

Avoidance versus chaos

Your personality type will dictate what level of response you have to something like the spread of coronavirus, explains Dr Annie Cantwell-Bart, a psychologist specialising in grief and trauma.

“If, for example, you come from a family where avoidance style is what you’ve been taught, that’s what you will repeat,” she says.

“Or if you come from a fairly chaotic background where your dad has been in jail and mum is an alcoholic, you will hold a high level of anxiety in living anyway.”

She gives the example of her local barista, who is casually employed.

“When I asked how he was feeling, he said he doesn’t think about it, he just gets on with life.”

She says that avoidance style has its advantages and disadvantages.

“They risk not being prepared or cautious enough. He might feel some trauma if the boss of the cafe says we’re closing down for a fortnight, because he hasn’t prepared.”

On the other end of the scale, people might respond chaotically. 

“Like the punch-up in the supermarket. Some people will … get agitated and it’s probably a fear the world will somehow not support them in any way,” Dr Cantwell-Bart says.

We should be more sensitive towards people with this level of anxiety, she says.

“It’s really important not to judge people … they are in a highly aroused anxious state.”

What we’ve been through shapes our response

Coronavirus symptoms explained — what happens when you get COVID-19 and how likely is a full recovery?

Upbringing, cultural background and previous experiences all shape how we respond to difficult situations.

But it doesn’t always play out in ways you’d expect. For example, someone who has survived a similar incident previously may feel a false sense of security, rather than the need to be cautious or prepared.

Your beliefs may also cause you to underprepare.

“If you believe that everything is pre-ordained, and a higher power is directing your life, you may not bother with certain precautions,” Dr Savage says.

Having compassion and understanding

Dr Savage says Australians are living in a society that is becoming more individualist than collectivist.

“Half of us are going ‘that is very anti-social’, while the other half is saying ‘good on you’,” he says in regards to people stocking up on supplies.

Dr Cantwell-Bart says in a time of crisis, it’s important to be respectful and tolerant.

“It’s about being more compassionate. Understanding that people who might be behaving in ways we might not, are doing it for good reason.”

Dr Savage recommends taking a step back to remember we’re all different, and there isn’t always right and wrong.

“Take a little bit more time to say ‘I don’t understand what that person is doing, but is that a problem?'”


National Redress Scheme – Update

This newsletter gives an update on the National Redress Scheme. It covers available support, new institutions to join, and recent data on application progress.


This newsletter contains material that could be confronting and stressing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness or distress or trigger traumatic memories for people, particularly for those people who have experienced past abuse or childhood trauma.
There are free and confidential Redress Support Services to help you. They can provide practical and emotional support before, during and after you apply for redress. Free legal advice and financial counselling are also available. Please visit the National Redress Scheme website at for a full list of support service providers. If you need immediate support, 24-hour telephone assistance is available from:

New institutions

The number of institutions participating in the Scheme has more than doubled as more institutions have completed the necessary steps to join the Scheme.

As at 6 February 2020, 162 non-government institutions were participating in the Scheme – up from 67 last year, in addition to the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. 

As at 6 February 2020, the total number of sites, including churches, schools, children’s home and charities across Australia that had joined the Scheme, had increased from 41,900 to 47,600, meaning that more applications that were on hold can be progressed. 

For details of the institutions that have joined, please visit: or

You can also contact the Scheme on 1800 737 377 from Australia or +61 3 6222 3455 from overseas (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time) if you would like more information about your application. 

Application progress as at 31 January 2020

As of 31 January 2020, the Scheme: 

  • had received 6,077 applications
  • had made 1,367 decisions, including 1,112 payments totalling over $89.3 million
  • had made 255 offers of redress, which applicants have six months to consider
  • was processing 3,851 applications
  • had 897 applications on hold, including 543 because one or more institution named had not yet joined, and about 354 because they required additional information from the applicant.

As of 3 January 2020, 31 per cent of payments had been $50,000 dollars or less. 52 per cent had been between $50,001 and $100,000 dollars and 17 per cent had been $100,001 dollars to $150,000 dollars. 

Find out more

To find out more about the National Redress Scheme, go to or call 1800 737 377 from Australia or +61 3 6222 3455 from overseas (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time).Copyright © 2020 Australian Government, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website. 

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eNews #01

eNews #01

The Danger of Keeping Secrets

When should we keep a secret? What are the risks? 

Alex Lickerman M.D.

Happiness in this World

Posted Sep 30, 2012

Photo: LE▲H.nicor


They may very well be right. Though not all truths need to be shared with everyone—or even anyone—to maintain a healthy and happy life, concealing some truths is like swallowing slow-acting poison: one’s insides gradually rot. How does one tell the difference between the kind of secret one should keep and the kind one shouldn’t? Perhaps a good guide would be this: the kind of secrets that shouldn’t be kept are those that allow us to behave in a way that causes harm to others or to ourselves. All-to-common examples of this include addiction (to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and so on) as well as infidelities (to spouses, business partners, friends, and so on). Keeping these kind of secrets allows the detrimental behavior to continue. Confess such secrets to the right people and it becomes much harder for the harm such secrets enable to continue.

But though revealing that we have a problem with alcohol or drug addiction often represents a necessary step toward recovery, the virtue of confessing infidelities—especially if they were one-time occurrences only—is far less clear. If a man cheats on his wife once, regrets it, and resolves never to do it again, will he do more good than harm in confessing or more harm than good?

Though one could imagine several results from such a confession—from the scenario in which his wife forgives him and the relationship ultimately continues intact after a period of healing, to the scenario in which the marriage continues but in a shattered form, to the scenario in which the relationship ends horribly and painfully—there are reasons to think that notconfessing might in some instances be worse. Such situations are always nuanced and need to be considered on a case-by-base basis, but if you dodecide to confess, it will likely:

  1. Reduce your guilt. Though people who maintain such secrets do so ostensibly to prevent the last two scenarios I listed above, keeping such secrets has its costs. Though confessing by no means guarantees a release from guilt, it’s likely the only way to make such a release possible. Certainly, confessing with even a genuinely contrite heart may not move the person you’ve hurt to forgive you, but it will open up an even more important possibility: that you will be able to forgive yourself. Was Raskolnikov better off for eventually confessing he murdered the old woman in Crime and Punishment even though doing so landed him in prison? A debatable point, but Dostoyevsky seemed to think so.
  2. Prevent the person or persons who would be hurt by learning the secret from finding out about it from someone else. Though revealing the secret yourself will cause pain, having them learn it from someone else will undoubtedly cause even more. You very well may risk the end of the relationship, but depending on how likely you judge it that your secret might be revealed from other sources, you need to decide which path is riskier.
  3. Reduce the number of your offenses. It’s one thing to do something hurtful to someone. It’s another to do so and keep it from them. While the former is often hard to forgive, the latter is even harder.

Deciding not to reveal a hurtful secret is usually easy, while deciding to reveal it is hard. But if it’s a secret you’re withholding from someone with whom you’re intimate—a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a best friend—even if it need never come up, it represents a barrier, a schism, between you and that person. Maybe you can tolerate that schism by simply not thinking about it. But maybe you can’t. Which is why, I suppose, a good rule of thumb by which to live your life is to try not to have any secrets to keep at all—that is, to not do anything you can’t tell the people who matter to you most.

Dr. Lickerman’s new book The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self will be published on November 6. Please read the sample chapter and visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble to order your copy today!


Roll up, Roll up to the greatest Show in Town! ⚡️💥

Here’s a repost + posting of some of BBC’s 1990 known CSA ‘Performers’: Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘hands on learning’! More to come. Stay tuned!!!

RCbbc eNews #2