Remembering Australia's ''First Wars'

UNSW Canberra Academics Involved: 
Dr John Connor

Often called the ‘Frontier Wars’ or the ‘First Wars’, the battles and skirmishes that occurred between the indigenous inhabitants of the continent of Australia and the British settlers represented a massive shift in the nation’s culture, heritage and future. The events cemented the shift from a land owned by Aborigines to a land where the traditional owners were permanently dispossessed.

Much of the fighting was recorded in local newspapers, Connor says, and it was not always Aborigines vs British. Sometimes the fighting was between warring Aboriginal groups.

This vital chapter of Australia’s history is being studied by Connor, and sometimes with a twist. He recently published a paper on the correlation between El Nino weather patterns and the resulting droughts or floods, and fighting on the frontier. During times of drought, battles increased as competition for land was more important.

Connor has shared his knowledge during radio interviews and television appearances. He has consulted to the series Who Do You Think You Are and the TV documentary First Australians.

The audience for his work, Connor says, is equally indigenous and non-indigenous, and ranges from individuals who contact him by email, to school groups and embassies (he gave a lecture at the Australian embassy in Berlin), to entire institutions, such as the RSL.