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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’70 or 80 Natives Attacked the Party while Travelling’: Understanding the Spatial Dimension of Conflict on the Frontier

By Heather Burke Archaeologists are obsessed with space. Not the kind you can look up and see at night, but something more earthly—the physical relationships between things that can be transformed through measurement into a variety of maps and plans. Geographic information systems (GIS) are only the most recent way to capture and collect such […]

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Piecing together the officers’ list: the value of obituaries

By Heather Burke We’ve written before about how useful TROVE’s digitised historical newspapers can be as a source of information unavailable anywhere else. The latest demonstration of their value was in the discovery of the names of two white officers of the Native Mounted Police who were previously unknown to us: Walter Pickering and Edward […]

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