Aborigines stirring for national recognition of their frontier wars dead


As white Australians scrub up for ANZAC Day, their once-a-year festival of nationalist jingoism, on Saturday (25 April), commemorating when British-led Australian and New Zealand soldiers were slaughtered trying to land at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915, Aboriginal people are organising to commemorate those of their ancestors killed in fighting invading settlers. Aboriginal activist, Ghillar Michael Anderson, writes: "In 2011 we started 'Lest We Forget the Frontier Wars' by joining on behind the Anzac Day march in Canberra and we received enormous support from the public at this time. We have commenced a process to highlight the wars fought on Australian soil since 1788, when our country was taken by superior force, at gunpoint, and those who stood in the way were shot."


‘We need to keep identifying that there has been warfare; that blood has been spilt on the wattle; and there is an ongoing war of attrition against Aboriginal Peoples to this day.

“Our people are dying in custody for crimes white people don't usually go to jail for, minor driving offences.

"We remember all the First Nations people who died in defence of their lands during the colonial invasion. We also remember the people who were massacred or died in concentration camps with genocidal intent.”

First Nations and Peoples are urged to bring banners identifying the place and time their people were massacred/murdered/poisoned and by whom to the central Anzac Day march and ceremonies in the capital, Canberra, on Saturday.


Supporters are also invited to carry banners for those who are unable to be present. “We emphasise that this is a silent parade in empathy with the solemnity of the day, wearing black. Our action is highlighting a fact. It is not a protest.”


A camp has been going on from 15 April, to end after Saturday, at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, “welcoming to anyone and everyone, black and white, with a Frontier Wars story to tell and/or ears to hear.


“The invitation to participate has been put out to Aboriginal mobs all around Australia and to historians and history teachers too. The Camp will have formal storytelling sessions which will be advertised. The Camp will also offer lots of opportunities for informal storytelling around multiple campfires and in multiple shade marquees."

Mr Anderson said:  "Aboriginal people who died in defence of their lands during the colonial invasion and the deaths suffered at the hands of people with genocidal intent are remembered by all Aboriginal people, particularly in areas where bodies have been left on open ground all those years ago and are now commemorated by sun-bleached bones and unmarked graves, which represent the human toll by an inhumane society.

“The unjustified criticisms by politicians and the Returned Services League (RSL) clearly shows the denial of Australian authorities of the reality of injustice perpetrated against Aboriginal people.


“We are calling upon the RSL and the government to locate all the families of Aboriginal service men and women and put head stones on the grave sites of these brave people, just as they do with non-Aboriginal people.

“We further call upon the state and federal governments to work with Aboriginal people to establish historical memorial sites, with the advice of Aboriginal people, to identify the massacre sites during the colonial invasion.

“We need these areas to be excised as places of remembrance and protected by law."

Ray Jackson, a Wiradjuri man and president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, is ambivalent about ANZAC Day:  Like all school children of my vintage we were taught that ANZAC Day was nothing less than sacred when our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen saved us from the Japanese peril and the fascism of Hitler. Of course there was absolutely no mention of any Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders who fought and no recognition of women either.

“This war was men's business - white men's business.


“[On Anzac Day 2014] I again made the decision to forgo the main Anzac March in the city as I have done for many years. I have found I could honour my Australian father who was killed on the Kokoda Track [New Guinea] during WWII in other, more private ways.


“His death led to me being taken from my Aboriginal mother. No War Widows' Pension for her, just the taking of her children due solely to her Aboriginality. Such was the thanks for his contribution.”


Between 1899 and 1902, fifty Aboriginal black trackers were summonsed by the British forces in South Africa to join the Boer war effort. Griffith University's Indigenous research fellow, Dr Dale Kerwin said that the black trackers came from all over the country but very little else is known about them.


He claims they were left behind at the end of the war in 1902 because they were denied re-entry into Australia under the Immigration Protection Act, known as the White Australian Policy.


No one knows if they made it home. A research project being run out of Griffith University in Queensland is trying for the first time in more than a century to discover what happened to the men and may finally see their contribution take its rightful place in the Australian War Memorial.

In an article “Imperialism, ANZAC nationalism and the Aboriginal experience of warfare”  in the online publication Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, Padraic Gibson, senior researcher at the University of Technology Sydney’s Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, notes:Aboriginal protest played a key role in undermining the celebratory settler-nationalism of the bicentennial in 1988. In the lead up to another major nationalist mobilisation, the centenary of the Gallipoli invasion on ANZAC Day 2015, extensive official efforts are being made to incorporate Aboriginal experiences into the day, through celebration of the role of Aboriginal people who served in Australia’s armed forces."

His analysis demonstrates how capitalist class interests drove both the Frontier Wars and the development of an Australian regional empire, which was consolidated by the mobilisation of Australian troops in WW1.

“Mass protests by Aboriginal people and supporters in 1988 seriously tainted January 26 [Australia Day], undercutting any attempt to present Australia Day as a rallying point for national pride. Protests had been held on January 26 many times prior and every year since, a consistent dent in Australian nationalism. Prime Minister Bob Hawke began a process of shifting the focal point for celebration of Australian nationalism to ANZAC Day on April 25 in response to these protests. John Howard pushed ANZAC Day even harder, with large-scale funding commitments to reshape teaching, research and entertainment agendas to expand the scale and reach of ANZAC commemoration.”


Undeclared frontier wars Anzac Day commemoration videos in 2013, 2012 and 2011:

Frontier Wars - Anzac Day march 2012, Canberra

2011 Lest We Forget the Frontier Wars: Re Imagining Anzac  

2011: Breath of Life: moments in transit towards Aboriginal Sovereignty


See also:


Aborigines stirring for national recognition of their frontier wars dead

White and black deceit, corruption and looting over land against autonomous Aboriginal people in South Australia

Aborigines appeal to UN indigenous forum over homelands closure plans

Prime minister "shameless, insensitive, outrageous, incredibly racist, lacking humanity, disconnected from reality"

Aboriginal Australian communities call for global action

For the record: First People's sovereignty never ceded

South Australian Aboriginal communities hold emergency summit to fight 'cultural genocide' 
Aboriginal communities send a powerful message to government

Aboriginal protesters come face-to-face with politicians during Canberra 'sit-in'

In defence of our land and our freedoms

Maori solidarity with the Nyoongar people at Matargarup, Perth  

Maori politicians support Aboriginal protest over proposed closure of indigenous communities



WGAR: Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)

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WGAR Background to the Aboriginal Sovereignty Movement (last updated: 17 April 2015) 

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Audio of Ghillar, Michael Anderson, addressing the 19/10/2012 "Festival of Dangerous Ideas" in Sydney. In the hour-long address he destroys the premise that the British government acquired title to Australia more than 200 years ago.


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