Letter supports monument to indigenous warriors

 Letter, Canberra Times, 8 November 2011. The following letter from MAPW Vice President, Dr Sue Wareham, was published (although without its second paragraph) in the Canberra Times on 8 November. The letter is in support of Professor Tim Flannery's call for a monument to honour those who fought against the European colonisation of the Australian continent.

 Professor Tim Flannery’s call for a monument to honour the Aboriginal people who fought against European colonisation of their land (“Call to honour those who fought invasion”, CT November 4) should be strongly supported.  Such a monument would help fill the biggest void in our national commemoration of warfare.  Unlike the world wars, for which more memorials are planned, the frontier wars are all but forgotten.  

  For too long it has been argued by some that the Aboriginal people’s struggle was not a “real war”.  Such a judgement seems to depend not on the numbers of people who died in the fierce armed attack and resistance, for there were many, but on whether it reflected honourably on its white participants.  The definition of warfare also seems to strangely and arbitrarily exclude armed conflict in our own land.

 Part of the enduring legacy of the paternalistic attitudes that have prevailed towards Australia’s original inhabitants are the gargoyles of Aboriginal faces at the Australian War Memorial.  Displayed as they are alongside those of the koala, lizard, duck, wombat and other native creatures, they make one cringe with shame.

 Currently we are approaching the centenary of the 1915 battle that we are told was pivotal in developing our national soul.   Perhaps an honest reminder of all our wars, including that which is most conspicuously absent from our commemorations, could make us reconsider whether an identity forged in warfare is an identity we really want.

Dr Sue Wareham