When the pastoralists began moving north into what was to become Queensland, they pursued practises which were designed to exterminate the Aboriginal population. They continued to do this for over 50 years.
They were aided and abetted by the notorious Native Police Force, which was made up of Aborigines from the remnants of the native tribes.
The expeditions against their own people generally followed some sort of resistance by the indigenous tribes; the slaying of a shepherd or the spearing of cattle. This supplied the squatters and their native henchmen with the excuse to wreak the most obscene atrocities.
Whole tribes were virtually wiped out, simply because of a desire to protect their ancestral lands. When they were cornered by the troopers the men were shot, the children who were not taken as future slaves and concubines had their heads smashed against trees and rocks and the women were raped and then killed.
Reports of the Native Police copulating with the corpses of dead women were not uncommon. The squatters referred to all these activities as ‘sport’.
While all this was going on the state government, which was dominated by the squatters, turned a blind eye. To them the extermination of the Aboriginal race was a convenient outcome of white settlement.
The actions against the tribes were officially and euphemistically termed ‘dispersals’ but were, in effect, wholesale slaughter.
There has been a conspiracy of silence over this shameful period in Queensland’s history but despite the protestations of sceptics like Keith Windschuttle the evidence is overwhelming. The descendants of the squatters were still around and still promoting their attitudes about indigenous people when Joh Bjelke Petersen was premier of Queensland. Only Bob Katter stood up to them.
The motivation of the early pastoralists and squatters was greed for land. Later they were joined by the miners. Huge fortunes were made by stealing indigenous land.
Now comes the scary bit. By the 1880s the squatters, forever looking north for new lands to conquer, fixed their eyes on Papua.
Under the guise of concern over German expansionism Queensland annexed Papua in 1883. The squatters and the government not only had their eye on the land but on Papuans as potential labourers for their cane fields.
The premier of Queensland despatched the Thursday Island police magistrate HM Chester to carry out the annexation. Chester had already been involved in several punitive expeditions with the Native Police to islands in Torre Strait. He was a man who knew how to deal with uppity tribesmen.
Thankfully, the alarmed Colonial Office refused to ratify the Queensland annexation and sent the Royal Navy to annex Papua in its own name.
Had they ratified the Queensland bid things could have turned out entirely different for Papua New Guinea?
If you want to find out more about Queensland’s wild frontier days and the slaughter of her indigenous people you can read Timothy Bottom’s excellent book called Conspiracy of Silence: Queensland’s frontier killing times published by Allen and Unwin this year.