Thursday, 3 September 2009

Violence against indigenous Australians is ignored

Cairns historian Dr Timothy Bottoms, says the conspiracy of silence about the colouring of Australian history, is a story that needs to be told.

"The violence against indigenous Australians in early Queensland played a role in the characteristic of amnesia on our national psyche," Dr Bottoms told CairnsBlog.

Bottoms, the author of Djabugay Country (1999) and Bama Country (2008), presented a keynote address to the Q150 conference in Brisbane today, following the opening by Penelope Wensley, Governor of Queensland.

He says the violence from Myall Creek in 1838, to Cullin-la-Ringo in 1861, the massacre of the Mitchell River, 1864; and Battle Camp north of Laura in 1873, in Far North Queensland, are events that have somehow disappeared from Queensland’s history.

"They are replaced with the artificially peaceful pioneering myth," Dr Bottoms said.

"I will present to the conference, the role of the colonial Queensland government and their operation of the Native Mounted Police in implementing the policy of violence on the expanding frontier."

"Apparently this is part of a national sense of forgetfulness. This appears to be linked to our national amnesia regarding Australia’s convict ‘birthstain’. Perhaps we have seen a similar approach in the last decade with the implementation of Australia’s foreign policy," Timothy Bottoms says.

"The brutality of the frontier and the near century of authoritarian control of Indigenous Queenslanders, has left a deliberate legacy of selective memory. Is this one of the factors that has made Queensland different from the rest of Australia?," Bottoms asks.

Timothy Bottoms’ inclusive approach to all people who have populated Cape York Peninsula provides an important insight into North Queensland's cultural history. He completed the definitive A History of Cairns (1770-1995) in 2002, and produced a DVD Frontline Cairns (1940-1946).

Over the last five years, he has been researching massacres on the Queensland frontier. Earlier this year, Bottoms' work was recognised by being awarded a Visiting Fellowship at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

"I managed to complete a bountiful research trip which along with a Sydney publisher’s interest decided me on producing a book on the subject along with a map which I have been working on for several years," Tim Bottoms said today.

The Professional Historian’s Association invited Dr Bottoms as the keynote address at the Q150 Conference.

The photo was taken on his road trip south to Canberra in March. This is the site of Cullen-la-ringo, south of Emerald, and the sign highlights how ‘victors write the history’.

"Like the way the Labor Government silenced the people of Cairns out over the preservation of their historic waterfront Yacht Club, our indigenous residents also suffered by the way their plight and treatment was silenced and ignored," Dr Bottoms said.

Former Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne refused to support Dr Bottoms work, after a State grant in conjunction with the Council. A heated outburst ensued in the run-up to the March 2008 election, captured on CairnsBlog video.

"You signed something with a previous Council," Mayor Byrne said at a community election meeting. Byrne dismissed the History of Cairns publication and the surrounding issues. "You left us with a can of worms."

The 700-page book is still awaiting a publisher. It is hoped the Schier-led Council will support the publication.

4 comments:

The Clifton Wanker said...

Does this mean we're up for more apologies?

I'm sure these apologies are going to start costing us real money soon. That's OK, KRudd loves giving away free money.

I'm getting sick of all the apologies. When does someone start apologising to me?

Jason O'Brien said...

To compare the wholesale slaughter of Aboriginal people with the removal of the Cairns Yacht Club belittles the history of how this part of the world was "settled."

It is the same Labor government that is putting on the Q150 conference which is giving a voice to these stories.

Please don't compare the murder of thousands of Aboriginies to the loss of a neglected building.

Bryan Law said...

Jason, I know it's hard for you to understand, but Dr Bottoms was not comparing the massacres to the Yacht Club issue.

Rather he was illustrating the nature of manipulation and spin by government, using a well known contemporary issue.

He could equally have used the extensive and disgraceful lies your Party told during the 2009 election campaign - followed by the wholesale sell-off of public assets.

Stop trying to bullshit us please.

Marius de Groot said...

Mentioning shooting of Aboriginal people by nearby squatters and the number of Aboriginal people who allegedly lost their lives in retribution for these murders is an obvious ploy to redirect blame away from the callous fiends that bludgeoned to death 19 innocent settlers. The Wills party had nothing to do with shoot of Aboriginal people.
As for the number who allegedly died as retribution is that a factually figure or and embellished one? This tragedy of Australian history has almost been swept under the carpet and is little know by the man/woman on the street. I’m sure that the current crop of university academics—and others with vested interests in Australian history—would very much feel justified if this event was totally forgotten.
Drive past the site of the Myall Creek incident and there is a large sign by the side of the road directing travellers to the Myall Creek massacre memorial site. Drive through Springsure and if you’re looking very had you might see a little sign that points in the direction of the Wills graves. There is no explanation as to who the Wills were and why, how, or when they died. It is not until you actually get to the site of the massacre that the sign in the last picture is seen. This sign is a very isolated location—as was the massacre—but not as isolated to the average Australian as the knowledge of this event.