Consultation on an Appropriate Frontier War Memorial

Prof. Lyndall Ryan – mapping frontier massacres

At its Ordinary Council Meeting on 13 February 2018, the Inner West Council adopted the following motion entitled ‘Mayoral Minute: Initiating Consultation about an Appropriate Frontier War Memorial’:

1. Council consult with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Strategic Reference Group, the Metro Land Council and further representatives from the local community about the need, form and location of a Frontier War memorial;
2. A report be brought back to council outlin(ing) the results of this consultation; and
3. The report should draw from international examples and research.

In support of his Mayoral Minute, Clr Byrne noted the following:

  • From 1788 to as late as the 1930s, Australia was the site of an ongoing Frontier War;
  • As a result of outright violent engagements, massacres, and the European introduction of diseases like measles, smallpox and influenza, the Indigenous population of Australia was reduced by around 90% between 1788 and 1900;
  • The Frontier Wars are yet to be acknowledged as an official war;
  • It is regrettable that if the Minute is supported, the Inner West Council would appear to be the first council in Australia to established any kind of commemoration to local Frontier Wars;
  • It is also regrettable that there is little, if any, acknowledgment of the Frontier Wars on official war memorials and monuments across the country;
  • With public discussion occurring about how to recognise and honour what it means to be Australian, the time is right to consider establishing a prominent local memorial to commemorate the Frontier Wars.

During the debate Clr Stamolis indicated his support for the proposed Minute but sought clarification about who the further representatives from the local  community would be. In response, the Mayor replied that he wanted to give Council officers leeway to identify organisations and members of the community whose advice should be sought. Therefore the identity of these additional representatives remains to be determined.*

While consultation with local Aboriginal organisations and residents is primary, the motion underestimates the positive interest that other community organisations and individuals have in this issue. Inviting submissions from local stakeholders, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, on the need for a Frontier War Memorial would have served the community better.

The credibility of the report and its recommendations will depend to a substantive degree on the adequacy of the consultative process. As such the report should be required to list all consultations that are carried out, along with a concise summary of each consultation.

Recognition of the Frontier Wars at both local and national levels is crucial. Both the United States and New Zealand recognise and commemorate their wars with their First Nations people.

There is absolutely no honour in official Australia Day ceremonies refusing to face up to the truth of our past and the violence perpetrated against our Indigenous peoples. Acknowledgment of the Frontier Wars will help us accept what we are and where we have come from.

There will be no reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous peoples without official recognition of the Frontier Wars.

* The motion was carried unanimously.

For the motion: Clr Darcy Byrne (Labor), Clr Marghanita Da Cruz (The Greens), Clr Mark Drury (Labor), Clr Colin Hesse (The Greens), Clr Sam Iskandar (Labor), Clr Tom Kiat (The Greens), Clr Pauline Lockie (Ind), Clr Victor Macri (Ind), Clr Lucille McKenna OAM (Labor), Clr Julie Passas (Liberal), Clr Rochelle Porteous (The Greens), Clr Vittoria Raciti (Liberal), Clr John Stamolis (Ind), Clr Louise Steer (The Greens) and Clr Anna York (Labor).
Against the motion: Nil.

The minutes relating to ‘Mayoral Minute: Initiating Consultation about an Appropriate Frontier War Memorial’ (C0218 Item 15) can be accessed here.

The debate on the Mayoral Minute can be viewed via the webcast of the meeting here.  (Start of segment – 23min 40sec. End of segment – 30min 25sec).

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