With 26 January approaching it’s a good time to brush up on your history of Australia’s colonisation and how that affected the Indigenous inhabitants. This useful interactive map goes a long way to help show the devastating toll of massacres by British colonisers.
In 2019, the University of Newcastle’s Lyndall Ryan led a project compiling a list of frontier massacres by colonisers in Australia, ‘Colonial Frontier Massacres in Australia, 1788-1930’.
“From the moment the British invaded Australia in 1788 they encountered active resistance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners and custodians of the lands,” the website says.
“In the frontier wars which continued until the 1960s massacres became a defining strategy to eradicate that resistance. As a result thousands of Aboriginal men, women and children were killed.”
The website includes a timeline, a list of sources and an interactive map that provides information about each recorded massacre.
To account for each event, a team of researchers poured over newspapers, parliamentary records, diaries, historical accounts and other documents to verify each massacre, its scale and location.
According to the team, a massacre was defined “defined as the deliberate and unlawful killing of six or more defenceless people in one operation”.
The project also noted that many of the massacres were planned, secret acts that were carried out in response to an Indigenous Australian killing a colonist (often in retaliation for “abduction and sexual abuse of an Aboriginal woman”) or for alleged theft of livestock or other colonial property.
At the end of the mammoth research task, the team counted an estimated 311 massacres over the 140 year period.
8271 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander victims of massacres were accounted for, and 176 colonist victims of the massacres as well.
The map, and the broader project, is an accessible way to understand the horrific massacres that took place during Australia’s early colonial history.