Cultures of terror

By Heather Burke In dealing with all savages you must make yourself feared. GeorgE Pearce Serocold (25 December 12857) Frontier conflict in colonies such as Australia was less military and more irregular than the popular conception of warfare, characterised by quick, highly-focused, short-term attacks, non-professional combatants, and a range of changing and temporary alliances between […]

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The Music of objects

By Heather Burke A soundscape is made up of the natural and human-made sounds that help to define an environment or a place. Although we tend to consider some sounds as “noise” — usually those things we find undesirable within our own cultural frame of reference, including other people’s preferred forms of music — all […]

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Uniform Buttons of the Native Mounted Police in Queensland, 1852–1904

By Nic Grguric The stranger turned round and revealed a rather prepossessing face, and I noticed a row of glittering buttons, which at once proclaimed the native police officer (Queenslander, 25 January 1879, p.109). A considerable assemblage of uniform buttons were recovered from the archaeological fieldwork carried out at six Native Mounted Police (NMP) sites […]

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Murdering Molvo Part II: Beyond History Written by the Victors

By Iain Davidson, Heather Burke and Lynley Wallis In a previous post we described a series of events that occurred in western Queensland (Qld) in 1879, involving the killings of four Europeans by Aboriginal people, and the reprisal massacres carried out by the NMP and local settlers that followed. The story we told was reconstructed […]

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Murdering Molvo Part I: The Events at Wonomo Waterhole

By Iain Davidson, Heather Burke, Lance Sullivan and Lynley Wallis The nature of historical knowledge is complex, involving oral history, archaeology and (less often than is generally supposed) written documents, many of which begin with some sort of oral telling. Here we outline the historical knowledge of a particular series of events in northwest Queensland […]

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Violent Etymologies

By Heather Burke A map is a frail thing, although the politics that underlie its construction and naming practices are not. In 2017 Queensland removed several racist place names from the map, prompting debate over whether memorials to Robert Towns and John Mackay—the namesakes of both Townsville and Mackay—should tell their history more fully, given […]

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“I am, Sir, &c., Tom Coward”

By Heather Burke Thomas (Tom) Coward was described as many things throughout his life: a ‘thoroughly good explorer’, an ‘experienced bushman’, ‘remarkable and interesting’, tyrannical, irascible, belligerent and domineering. He is one of the better documented NMP officers, chiefly because in his later years he seems to have told his life story to anyone who […]

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‘The Art of Cookery is in a Most Barbarous State’*: Food on the Frontier

By Heather Burke Jane Fyfe, who accompanied her husband Alexander to his large pastoral run on the Mackenzie River Central Qld in 1862, neatly summed up the state of food on the frontier when she complained in a letter to her aunt: … We have plenty of fish and game and splendid mutton but nothing […]

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‘A Large Comet Appeared in the West’: The Daily Journals of Three NMP Camps

By Heather Burke Jonathan Richards (2005:1–9) has pointed out the rich veins that can be tapped when searching for Native Mounted Police (NMP) records in the Qld State Archives by burrowing through general file series, such as the Colonial Secretary’s inwards and outwards correspondence, the inquest files of the Justice Department, or the Executive Council […]

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