About

The project to research and build this online map and related information is lead by historian, Prof. Lyndall Ryan at the University of Newcastle in consultation with The Wollotuka Institute and AIATSIS. This site is supported by the Centre For The History Of Violence and the Centre For 21st Century Humanities.

The information and data on this site may only be re-used in accordance with the Terms Of Use.

Research Team

Information on this site represents the best evidence available to the research team. It remains subject to change from ongoing feedback, community consultation and research. The research team invites suggestions and corrections through the contact form.

Stage 3: Ryan, Lyndall; Pascoe, William; Debenham, Jennifer; Gilbert, Stephanie; Smith, Robyn; Owen, Chris; Price, Daniel; Usher, Kaine.

Stage 2: Ryan, Lyndall; Pascoe, William; Debenham, Jennifer; Gilbert, Stephanie; Smith, Robyn; Brown, Mark; Price, Daniel; Newley, Jack.

Stage 1: Ryan, Lyndall; Pascoe, William; Debenham, Jennifer; Gilbert, Stephanie; Richards, Jonathan; Anders, Robert J; Brown, Mark; Price, Daniel.

Overall: Ryan, Lyndall; Pascoe, William; Debenham, Jennifer; Gilbert, Stephanie; Richards, Jonathan; Smith, Robyn; Owen, Chris; Anders, Robert J; Brown, Mark; Price, Daniel; Newley, Jack; Usher, Kaine.

Background

The project grew out the Aboriginal history wars that broke out in the late 1990s and the debate about frontier massacres. The key questions included: What is a frontier massacre? Where is the evidence? Where did they take place? Were they widespread? Who were the perpetrators? How can we know?

At the time the only Australia wide study of frontier massacre was Bruce Elder’s Blood on the Wattle1. First published in 1988 it contained information about 25 incidents of frontier massacres across Australia. He noted that military massacres were the dominant feature of first settlements in each of the colonies. When the 3rd edition appeared in 2003, more than one hundred massacres were chronicled right across Australia, based on research by regional historians like Gil Andrew, Geoffrey Blomfield, Peter Gardner and Noel Loos, and the detailed studies of individual massacres by scholars like Luise Hercus, Gordon Reid, Roma Kelly and Nicolas Evans2. While there was some indication of the conditions in which massacres took place, there was no clear definition of a massacre nor how many people killed in one operation would constitute one.

Since then important new regional studies by Ian D. Clark for Western Victoria, Patrick Collins for South West Queensland, Tony Roberts for the Gulf Country, Amanda Nettelbeck and Robert Foster for South Australia, Lyndall Ryan for Tasmania, Darrell Lewis for Victoria River District in the Northern Territory, and Timothy Bottoms for Queensland have further advanced the field.3 Bottoms, Clark and Ryan each offered a definition of frontier massacre as the indiscriminate killing of five or six undefended people in one operation, and began to query the reliability of evidence of massacre provided in the immediate aftermath. What was now required was a coherent methodology to interrogate the wide array of sources.

In the meantime, the new field of digital technology was emerging. New mapping techniques were enabling the general public to access information that was usually the preserve of specialist researchers. From the new fields of massacres studies and digital technology, the massacre map project was born.

This research was funded by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council, PROJECT ID: DP140100399.

Australian coat of arms with kangaroo and emu, saying Australian Government, Australian Research Council

Footnotes

  1. Elder, B 1988, Blood on the Wattle Massacres and Maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788, New Holland Publishers, Sydney.
  2. Elder, 2003, Blood on the Wattle, 3rd edition; Gill, A 1977, ‘Aborigines, Settlers and Police in the Kimberleys 1887-1905, Studies in Western Australian History, pp.1-28; Blomfield, G. 1986: Baal Belbora the End of the Dreaming, Alternative Publishing Co-operative Ltd., Sydney; Gardner, P D 1990, Our Founding Murdering Father, Ngarak Press, Ensay; Loos, N 1982, Invasion and Resistance: Aboriginal-European relations on the North Queensland frontier, 1861-1897, Australian National University Press, Canberra; Hercus, L 1977, ‘Tales of Nadu-Dagali (Rib-Bone Billy)’, Aboriginal History, Vol.1, No.1, pp.53-62; Reid, G 1982, A Nest of Hornets: The Massacre of the Fraser Family at Hornet Bank Station, Central Queensland, 1857, and Related Events, Oxford University Press, Melbourne; Reid, G 1990, A Picnic with the Natives Aboriginal-European Relations in the Northern Territory to 1910, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne; Kelly R, and Evans N, 1985, ‘The McKenzie Massacre on Bentinck Island’, Aboriginal History, vol.9, no.1, pp.44-52..
  3. Clark, I.D. 1995: Scars in the Landscape a register of massacre sites in western Victoria, 1803-1859, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra; Collins, P. 2002: Goodbye Bussamarai The Mandandanji Land War, Southern Queensland 1842-1852, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld.; Roberts, T. 2005: Frontier Justice A History of the Gulf Country to 1900, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld; Nettelbeck, A and Foster, R 2007, In the Name of the Law, William Willshire and the Policing of the Australian Frontier, Wakefield Press, Adelaide; Ryan L 2012, Tasmanian Aborigines A History since 1803, Allen & Unwin, Sydney; Lewis, D 2012, A Wild History Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier, Monash University Publishing, Melbourne; Bottoms, T 2013, Conspiracy of Silence, Queensland’s Frontier Killing-Times, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.