Australian Frontier Conflicts:
Bibliographic Sources Listed
by Australian States and Territories

Below are some of the main sources of information about Australian frontier conflicts and related subjects such as genocide and race relations, as they exist in 2020. This bibliography is updated from time to time. Check sources such the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies catalogues and the National Library of Australia’s Trove database at: https://www.trove.nla.gov.au for availability of these and other material on Australian frontier conflicts.

Readers should be aware that ‘the historical record’ is that of the invading colonists and is often blatantly racist. The terminology used and the descriptions of events and of people can be very upsetting. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander versions of events were not recorded in the early days of colonial Australia, when First Peoples were not permitted to give evidence in court. It is only since First Peoples’ oral history and the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander historians on colonial frontier conflict, depicted through art and other media as well as in articles, books, exhibitions, demonstrations and other formats such as online channels, has been published, that the voices of First Peoples about colonial history have begun to be heard.

You can read more about selected and new books on the Books page. You can also find more resources on Australian frontier conflicts under Journal Articles, Videos, and Maps.

Australia (General)

Action for World Development 1999, Aboriginal Heroes of the Resistance: From Pemulwuy to Mabo, Action for World Development, Surry Hills, New South Wales

Articles on Frontier Wars [2014–2019], The Conversation at: https://theconversation.com/au/topics/frontier-wars-10075

Australian War Memorial, Military History Section, Australians at War: Colonial Period, 1788–1901 [ND] at https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/colonial/, accessed on 24 October 2016. ‘One role of the troops was to guard Australia against external attack, but their main job was to maintain civil order, particularly against convict uprisings, and to suppress the resistance of the Aboriginal population to British settlement.’ Be aware that this chapter of the Australian War Memorial’s online Australians at War series does not explain the frontier wars period in any detail, such as the deliberate colonial military actions against Aboriginal people in  the colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land), Victoria (when still part of New South Wales) and Western Australia. Nor does the Australian War Memorial’s chapter on the Colonial Period include any mention of the role of colonial police forces in frontier conflicts, or of how, when these forces were set up, they often recruited ex-military men to their ranks.

Banner, Stuart,  Why Terra Nullius? Anthropology and Property Law in Early Australia’, Law and History Review, Volume 23, Issue 1, Spring 2005, pp. 95–131

Barker, Bryce, Massacre, Frontier Conflict and Australian Archaeology’, Australian Archaeology, Number 64, June 2007, pp. 9–14

Barritt-Eyles, Lisa, University of Newcastle, ‘Gargoyles and silence: “Our story” at the Australian War Memorial, 18 March 2015, at: 
https://theconversation.com/gargoyles-and-silence-our-story-at-the-australian-war-memorial-38829

Brodie, Nick 2016, 1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia’s Beginnings, Hardie Grant Books, Richmond, Victoria

Coates, Ian ed. 2020, Endeavour Voyage: the Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Colonial Frontier Massacres, Australia, 1780 to 1930 [Map], University of Newcastle website: https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/

‘In this project, a colonial frontier massacre is defined as the deliberate and unlawful killing of six or more defenceless people in one operation.

Although there is no legal definition of massacre, international scholars of the subject appear to agree that the collective killing of between three and ten undefended people in one operation is a minimum number to constitute a massacre.1 Native American scholar Barbara A. Mann, considers that the killing of six undefended Indigenous people from a hearth group of twenty, is known as a ‘fractal massacre’.2 Having lost thirty percent of the hearth group in one blow, the survivors are unable to continue their lives as members of a cohesive unit. They are not only vulnerable to further attack, they are also left with a greatly diminished ability to gather food, or reproduce the next generation or fulfil ceremonial obligations to kin and country. In their diminished state they are also vulnerable to exotic disease.’

[NB: The Australian Frontier Conflicts (AFC) website has not used any material from the University of Newcastle’s massacre map project, although there may be some overlapping information on both websites. The AFC website is an ongoing project, that does include maps–updating also an ongoing project. One aim of the website is to collect material about some known ‘conflicts’ between colonists and First Nations peoples, so it includes so far Australian incidents:

  • where less than six people were alleged to, or known to have been, involved
  • where only injuries occurred but no deaths
  • or where no injuries or deaths were reported. An example of this kind of conflict was the incident at Attack Creek (Goaranalki), 74 kms north of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory on 25 June 1860, in which Warramunga warriors allegedly attacked John McDouall Stuart and party, forcing them to leave. No known deaths or injuries related to this incident were reported.
  • from First Nations’ and non-First Nations’ oral history of conflicts and massacres and references to colonial frontier conflicts in Australian art, film, music and videos.

There is some imprecision about the definition of ‘massacre’ that relates to ‘the killing of multiple individuals’: see Wikipedia entry on ‘Massacre’ at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre, accessed on 4 May 2021. This article quotes definitions from a number of sources. Another is the Cambridge Dictionary that defines a ‘massacre’ as ‘an act of killing a lot of people’: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/massacre

A ‘conflict’ between two or more people, by contrast, can range from ‘a disagreement’ to a ‘fight, battle or war,’ see e.g. Collins Dictionary: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/conflict; or ‘a prolonged armed struggle’ (Oxford Lexico): https://www.lexico.com/definition/conflict, both accessed on 4 May 2021. A ‘conflict’, may or may not, involve violence, injury or death.]

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Footnotes to Colonial Frontier Massacres, Australia, 1780 to 1930 [Map], University of Newcastle

  1. Dwyer, P G, and Ryan, L (eds), 2012, Theatres of Violence Massacre, Mass Killing and Atrocity throughout History, Berghahn Books, New York, pp. xiii-xxv.
  2. Mann, B.A. 2013: ‘Fractal massacres in the Old Northwest: the example of the Miamis’, Journal of Genocide Research, Vol.15, No.2, June 2013, p.172.
  3. Richards, J. 2008 The Secret War, A True History of Queensland’s Native Police, UQP, Brisbane, pp.55-6.
  4. Owen, C 2016, Every Mother’s Son.

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Connor, John 2002, The Australian Frontier Wars 1788–1838, University of New South Wales Press

Daley, Paul, ‘Restless Indigenous Remains’, Meanjin, 8 September 2014 at: 
https://meanjin.com.au/articles/post/restless-indigenous-remains/, accessed on 8 September 2014

Elder, Bruce 1998, Blood on the Wattle: Massacres and maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788, revised edition, reprinted 2000

Ganter, Regina 2009–2018, German Missionaries in Australia–A web-directory of intercultural encounters, Griffith University. Available at: http://missionaries.griffith.edu.au/

Grey, JA 1999,  The Military and the Frontier, 1788–1901in Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, Cambridge University Press, New York

Grieves, Victoria, ‘Jamaica Australia historical connections and the Black diaspora in the Australian Pacific Region, “Maroons, Indigenous People and Indigeneity Part 2”’, Charles Town Maroon Council, 7th Annual International Maroon Conference, Charles Town, Portland, Jamaica, 2015, pp. 12–13

Hodges, Flavia, ‘Language Planning and Placenaming in Australia’Current Issues in Language Planning, Vol. 8, No. 3, 2007, pp. 383–403

Kerkhove, Ray 2015,  Aboriginal Smoke Signalling and Signalling Hills in Resistance Warfare’, Honest History

Litster, Mirani and Lynley A Wallis, ‘“Looking for the proverbial needle?” The archaeology of Australian frontier massacres’, Archaeology in Oceania, Vol. 46, No. 3, (October 2011), pp. 105–117. Available from ANU Open Access, see https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/20865 for an abstract.

Litster, Mirani, The Potential Contribution of Archaeology to Australian Frontier Studies, A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Bachelor of Archaeology (Honours), Department of Archaeology, School of Humanities, Flinders University, 16 June 2006. 

Litster, Mirani and Lynley A Wallis, Looking for the proverbial needle?” The archaeology of Australian frontier massacres’, Archaeology in Oceania, Vol. 46, No. 3, (October 2011), pp. 105–117. Available from ANU Open Access, see https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/20865 for an abstract.

Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, Original Documents on Aborigines and Law, 1797–1840–website that includes transcriptions and digital images of handwritten and printed material by government officials, judges and missionaries. Available at: https://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/other_features/correspondence/

Manera, Brad, Review of John Connor, The Australian frontier wars 1788–1838, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2002, Journal of the Australian War Memorial [ND] at: https://www.awm.gov.au/journal/j38/connorreview.asp, accessed on 24 August 2016

McKenna, Mark,  Moment of Truth: History and Australia’s Future’, Quarterly Essay, Issue 69, 2018

McQueen, Humphrey, ‘The real battle for Australia: pioneering writing on the Frontier Wars (Parts I-III)’, Honest History, 2 September 2014 at: https://honesthistory.net.au/wp/mcqueen-humphrey-pioneering-writing-on-frontier-wars/

Monticone, Judith 1999, Healing the Land, Vol.1, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Pascoe, Bruce 2007, Convincing Ground: Learning to fall in love with your country, Aboriginal Studies Press, reprinted 2012

Reynolds, Henry 1977 [?],  Aboriginal-European Contact History: problems and issues’, paper delivered at the 47th ANZAAS Congress, Hobart, 1976

Reynolds, Henry 1981, The Other Side of the Frontier: An interpretation of the Aboriginal response to the invasion and settlement of Australia, History Department, James Cook University, Townsville

Reynolds, Henry 1984, The breaking of the great Australian silence: Aborigines in Australian historiography 1955–1983’, Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture, University of London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Australian Studies Centre, 30 January 1984

Reynolds, Henry 1987, Frontier: Aborigines, settlers and land, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales

Reynolds, Henry comp. 1989, Dispossession: Black Australians and white invaders, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales

Reynolds, Henry 1990, With the White People: The crucial role of Aborigines in the exploration and development of Australia, Penguin, Ringwood, Victoria

Reynolds, Henry 1992, The Law of the Land, 2nd Edition, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria

Reynolds, Henry 1998, This Whispering in Our Hearts, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales

Reynolds, Henry 1999, Why Weren’t We Told?: a personal search for the truth about our history, Viking, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria

Reynolds, Henry 2000, Black Pioneers, (Revision of With the White People, 1990), Penguin, Ringwood, Victoria

Reynolds, Henry 2001, An Indelible Stain?: the question of genocide in Australia’s history, Viking, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria

Reynolds, Henry 2013, The Forgotten War, NewSouth Publishing, University of New South Wales

Reynolds, Henry 2018, This Whispering in Our Hearts Revisited, NewSouth Publishing, University of New South Wales

Reynolds, Henry, ‘Australia was founded on a hypocrisy that haunts us to this day’, The Conversation, 27 August 2018 at: https://theconversation.com/henry-reynolds-australia-was-founded-on-a-hypocrisy-that-haunts-us-to-this-day-101679

Reynolds, Henry, ‘Frontier Conflict and the War Memorial’, Meanjin, Autumn 2019 at: https://meanjin.com.au/essays/frontier-conflict-and-the-war-memorial/

Reynolds, Henry 2021, Truth-Telling: History, sovereignty and the Uluru Statement, New South Books

Stanley, Peter, University of New South Wales, ‘On Anzac Day, we remember the Great War but forget our first war’, The Conversation, 25 April 2014 athttps://theconversation.com/on-anzac-day-we-remember-the-great-war-but-forget-our-first-war-23246

Tatz, Colin, Genocide in Australia, Research Discussion Paper, No. 8, 1999, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra at: https://aiatsis.gov.au/publication/35772

Tedeschi, Mark 2017, Speech on War Crimes and Genocide, Myall Creek Massacre Memorial Ceremony, Myall Creek Memorial Site, Sunday 11 June. Full text of speech available at: https://myallcreek.org/2017/04/01/2017-speaker-mark-tedeschi/

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