By Thi Ngoc Ha Nguyen
A group of Indigenous people has raised their concern about the need to recognise the Coniston massacre at the same time as Gallipoli is commemorated.
“We need both black and white Australians, we need to be accepted and understand what happened there, that women and children were killed there and why they were killed and why justice was not found,” said Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, at a two-day conference held by the UTS Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies from 28 to 29 August, 2014, in Sydney.
The conference, entitled Gallipoli to Coniston: Remembering Frontiers, was the first of its kind. It marked the Coniston massacre which took place on 18 October, 1928 near the Coniston cattle station in the Northern Territory. It was the last known massacre of Indigenous Australians and one of the last events of the Australian Frontier Wars.
For Aboriginal people, the events of 1928 are of significance.
On 25 April every year, Australia commemorates ANZAC day as the national event to remember all Australians and New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli during World War I. But it is a commemoration of warfare outside the country.
“Coniston [massacre] does not receive any interest,” Mr Jackson said.
“[It’s] not forgotten history, it’s hidden history, it is different. It is denial,” said Aboriginal activist Lyle Davis.
But historians and scholars agree the Frontier Wars need to be recognised, according to Professor John Maynard, of the Wollotuka Institute, University of Newcastle.
Speakers also touched upon the role of the country’s education system. Some said the review of the National History curriculum may threaten the future of this approach since there are conflicting opinions on how to explore different aspects of Australia’s past.
The conference’s long-term goal is to open up the ceremonies held for ANZAC day to recognise The Frontier Wars in Australia.