The Canberra Times carried Dr Sue Wareham’s letter to the editor on the Frontier Wars and commemoration:
While the Australian War Memorial’s commemoration of Aboriginal contributions to military service is appropriate, one wonders about the title given to this CT report on 7 July, about Private Parker who died in the Boer War in South Africa: “Australia’s first Aboriginal soldier honoured at AWM”
The first? Only if one overlooks the many tens of thousands of Aboriginal people who died violently in the Frontier Wars as a result of the colonial invasion of this continent. Many of them were fighters and many were victims of the massacres that took place across the country.
In an extraordinary paradox, the Frontier Wars were the only wars fought on Australian soil, by people fighting for their own land and very survival, and yet they are the only wars in which Australians fought that are not commemorated at the AWM.
By the AWM’s own mission – to “assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its
enduring impact on Australian society” – this is a travesty. The Memorial’s arbitrary exclusion of the Frontier Wars from recognition and commemoration as wars diminishes our understanding, both of their historical significance for us all and their enduring impact on First Nations’ people.
Prime Minister Albanese’s commendable commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, with its call for “truth-telling about our history”, gives powerful impetus to the need for both truth-telling in full, and commemoration, of the Frontier Wars. It’s long since time for the AWM to take up this responsibility.