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2015 Frontier Wars March- 50 meters that defines a country

April 27, 2015

From the website of the Australian War Memorial:

“Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”

On the 25th of April, Australia commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Anzac landings on Gallipoli, Turkey. Since that day in 1915, Australia, particularly white Australia, has looked back on Anzac Day as the day Australia was born. Nationally, as has been reinforced since the 1980’s when most of the men involved on the day had died off, the Anzac commemorations got bigger and bigger.

There has been a lot written about why Anzac Day has become one of the defining days of Australian identity. I will only say here, that it has clearly been engineered by political and military leaders to build unquestioning loyalty to the State. Allowing politicians to lead us into whatever murderous invasion they like to distract us from the real political and economic issues of our time, like climate change, environmental destruction of fragile ecological systems to feed our economy and rampant arms spending based on out-dated theories of international relations that promise a threat of large scale inter-State war.

Great.

Now let’s pretend that Anzac Day has credence to be our national day, let’s say that those poor young blokes slaughtered on Gallipoli, on both sides, actually had a stake in giving Australia freedom (personally I think Tom Barker and Vida Goldstein who both faced persecution and gaol in protection of freedom of speech and association in Australia during the war are the defenders of freedom) or prosperity. With the dying off of the last Anzac’s, many of whom did not go to Anzac Day marches or talk much of that day and the many more of whom died of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide from the trauma suffered in the war- modern politicians faced a dilemma. How can we keep this a day about honouring our Anzac’s, when they’re all dead? The solution was the phrase I started this piece off with. Anzac Day is about all veterans, dead and alive of all wars that Australia has been a part of.

In 1788, when the first fleet landed in Australia, the grounds of conflict were sewn. In 1789, according to historian, Chris Warren, the White Coloniser’s were short of ammunition and the tools to fix their muskets. The colony had spread to Norfolk Island where the convicts were planning a mutiny and to Parramatta to open up enough farming land to try and feed the colony. Tensions were high; Indigenous People had been wondering when the new comers would leave their land.

According to Warren, a mid-level Marine took it upon himself to take a small boat, travel around Port Jackson and down to La Perouse. There, using vials of smallpox, for some unknown reason carried on the First Fleet, they infected blankets before handing them over to the First Nations Peoples. The effect of smallpox on the Indigenous Peoples was nothing short of devastating. The disease had never before been present in the population and may have killed half of the populations who became infected. It was an act of biological warfare.

By 1816, the New South Wales colony was expanding south west from Sydney. It was driven predominately by greedy land holders like John Macarthur looking to expand their land and wealth. A drought hit the land and Indigenous People jumped the fences that the White settlers had put up around waterways for their sheep and cattle. They took some sheep or cattle for food as they needed.

The Settlers literally went up in arms. Armed marines and police went out and executed Indigenous men, women and children. Indigenous Australians retaliated, raiding outposts and farms, burning crops and killing farmers. Such was ferocity of the conflict that Governor Macquarie stated “All Aborigines from Sydney onwards are to be made prisoners of war and if they resist, they are to be shot and their bodies hung from trees in the most conspicuous places near where they fall, so as to strike terror into the heart of the surviving natives.”

A declaration of war.

There you’ve read two tiny chapters in the Frontier Wars that started in 1788. People killing and dying defending this country from a greedy, bloodthirsty invader. Babies massacred, people poisoned. Marines called in to fight pitch battles in the Nepean- everything that any historian, amateur or otherwise would see as a war. Fortunately there are loads of materials coming out from historians like Tim Bottoms that document what evidence remains of this massive, wide-ranging conflict.

And yet, on Saturday, at the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, when we were supposed to be commemorating all soldiers in all wars, descendants of the indigenous people who fought and died, descendants of the White Settlers who fought, killed and died in the Frontier Wars, were denied the right to march. In the previous four years, the War Memorial had refused to allow the party to march officially. The Frontier Wars commemorators had marched anyway, unofficially on the end of the official march. I was amongst them this year and last year.

The 2015 Frontier Wars Commemoration March

This year, the police were more aggressive and pushy. Rather than stopping us just short of the main ceremony with a police line, we were being pushed back from the start. A gap of 50 metres was kept between those of us holding signs remembering the battles of the Frontier Wars and the air cadets. A 50 metre strip that denied the Black history of Australia. The police became pushy and aggressive the further we went. Eventually, under the leadership of a certain elder, we capitulated, despite police aggression, and turned away. The real history of our country denied for a white-washed version. Instead of wanting to admit that Australia was born in the blood of the Frontier Wars, we claim the catastrophe of Gallipoli as our mainstream heritage.

This is not just a case of racism. I am not a bleeding heart Indigenous Rights supporter. I am a selfish person. I don’t want my family and descendants to go off and fight and die in more Empire led wars, like Gallipoli, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Whilst we deny our real selves and build the false story of Gallipoli, building our national identity without admitting our real history, we claim our values as a nation are derived from one military campaign one hundred years ago. Our false sense of identity is one of Empirical outland- first for the British, now for the US.

Whilst we deny our Frontier Wars, we deny admitting that our role since 1914 has been a lackey following our Masters into wars for resources. We do this, because subconsciously, we are worried that Indonesia or China might one day do to us what we did to the Aborigines. Not just destroy us, but then forget about us too. So we suck up to the most powerful Empire of the day and hope that this will guarantee us a defence against this future.

In doing so we become the invaders, the murderers of the West Papuans, the 1.3 million people killed in the US led War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We spend our treasure on wars that we do not have any national interest in, aside from our fear that one day we may be invaded and killed.

This notion, that a large continent could again be invaded by force is laughable. The Japanese, even without US intervention had no hope of doing it in World War Two (see Peter Stanley’s work- Japan bombed US bases in Australia). Indonesia needs our military aid and training just to keep itself together and China is our largest trading partner. There are no military threats to Australia. And if we could remember our Frontier Wars, acknowledge deeply and truly who we are and how we got here, we might have a chance of learning that. We might have a chance of growing up, of telling the USA that we won’t support them in aggressive, illegal wars for oil. Our sisters, brothers, daughters and sons won’t have to waste themselves in foreign wars of aggression.

In the must read book, 1984, George Orwell wrote prophetically “Who controls the past, controls the future”. The Frontier Wars and the 50 metre gap between the real history of our country and the engineered history control our arms spending, our aid cuts, our foreign policy as a US lackey. That’s why I was there on Saturday, and despite the result, I will keep going back. The arc of the universe is long, but inshallah, it bends towards justice.

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4 Comments
  1. Clair permalink

    Thanks so much, Greg, for crafting those thoughts in your blog – well spoken!

    As you know I was there and experienced the whole thing. Very enlightening. I hope we can talk on the phone soon about what you actually saw and experienced right there just one metre away from “the fracas.” I was over on the end of the wide span holding our big banner and could not hear everything that was being said to cause the sergeant to “fly off the handle.” I did hear all of Mr. Anderson’s analysis and the discussion back at the vigil site. It will be interesting to follow how this all unfolds in the legal system and handling of this incident over the next several months. Peace, Clair

  2. Dave permalink

    As usual, a good article, Greg. Who is “Warren” (i.e. your source about Aborigines being deliberately infected with smallpox. I’ve not heard that before, although a little more detail about your source may make it sound more credible. I would question your assumption that no one would ever invade us if we did not have a military deterrent (and, of course, some big brothers militarily). Nevertheless, very good overall, and my criticised may be totally wrong too,

  3. Canada’s story almost to the letter. Swap Gallipoli for Vimy.

  4. Helen Bayes permalink

    Thanks, Greg, keep writing, keep standing up for this.

I would be honored if you espoused your narrative here.....

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