The Unsettled curators thank Neenah R. Gray for her assistance with this section’s web pages.

Curators’ acknowledgement

“We pay our respects and dedicate the Unsettled exhibition to the people and other Beings who keep the law of this land; to the Elders and Traditional Owners of all the knowledges, places, and stories in this exhibition; and to the Ancestors and Old People for their resilience and guidance.

We advise that there are some confronting topics addressed in this exhibition, including massacres and genocide. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be advised that there may be images of people who have passed away.”

Laura McBride and Dr Mariko Smith, 2021.

Fighting wars

Australia was not peacefully settled; it was taken by force through strategic, political and military campaigns. The early colony was militarised to protect it from foreign attacks, to maintain civil order over the convict population, and to suppress Aboriginal resistance against colonial interests.

Defining the decades of armed, violent conflicts between sovereign First Nations and the colonists as “wars”, is often contested. However, the historical records from this period included this specific term to describe events on the frontier.

The ongoing refusal to recognise this history of First Nations warriors and their adversaries denies them the memory, and the respect, they deserve.

Emboldened by success, the Blacks have become a universal terror to the country; their prejudices against the Whites have ripened into deadly hate; and instead of those occasional annoyances of which the settler had formerly to complain, he is surrounded by savage hordes thirsting for his blood. War upon the English is now their sole business.

- "War in Van Diemen’s Land", The Sydney Gazette, Tuesday, 28th September 1830, page 2.

We regret to observe that our South Australian neighbours are, as we are ourselves, at war with the Aborigines.

- "South Australia", The Sydney Gazette, Thursday, 23rd May 1839, page 2.

By a letter from Mr. JAMES GLENNIE, enclosing another from his Overseer, and by the affidavit of one of Mr. JOHN COBB’S assigned servants, published in The Herald of Monday last, we learn that the retaliatory war of the Aborigines in the north-western districts is assuming a more determined and alarming aspect than ever.

- “The War of Reprisal”, The Colonist, Wednesday, 2 January 1839, page 2.

Learn about the history of frontier wars