The horrifying history of the massacres of Australian First Nations People

Australian frontier landscape
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The European settlement of Australia is often portrayed as a benign and peaceful process. But the reality was anything but.


From 1788 to 1901, European settlers in Australia committed countless massacres of Indigenous Australians.


The violence was often unprovoked, and the victims included women, children, and the elderly.

This brutal chapter in Australian history is a shameful legacy that we must not forget.


We must remember the thousands of Indigenous people who lost their lives in these massacres, as well as the generations of families who have been affected by them.


Only then can we begin to repair the damage that has been done.

In the following article, we will examine some of the best-known events that took place during the European settlement of Australia.


But there were many, many more. In total, it is estimated that over 20,000 Indigenous Australians were killed in these frontier wars. 

Frontier Wars Australia
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Bathurst War

The Bathurst War of 1824 was one of the most brutal massacres in Australian history.


It was caused by a dispute over land rights on the Bathurst Plains, with the European settlers wanting to expand their territory at the expense of the local Indigenous people.


Over 100 Indigenous Australians of the Wiradjuri people were killed, and many more were wounded.


The violence was so severe that the area around Bathurst was declared off-limits to Indigenous people for almost 30 years. 

Myall Creek Massacre

The Myall Creek Massacre of 1838 was perhaps the most infamous of all the massacres.


It was caused by a dispute over a sheep that had been killed by Indigenous Australians.


The European settlers saw it as an opportunity to exact revenge, and they did so in the most brutal way imaginable.


A group of European settlers killed around 30 Indigenous Australians who were traveling through the area.


This massacre is significant because it was the first time Europeans were found guilty and punished for committing a massacre.

The Pinjarra Incident

The Pinjarra Incident of 1838 was yet another example of European settler violence against Indigenous Australians.


Around 100 people were killed in what is considered to be the largest massacre of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. 

Warrigal Creek Massacre

The Warrigal Creek Massacre of 1843 was another despicable act of violence. Around 60 Indigenous Australians were killed.


In July 1843, a European named Ronald Macalister was killed by First Nations men near Port Albert, in Victoria.


A Scottish colonist, called Angus McMillan, led a group of about 20 settlers who attacked and killed a number of groups of Indigenous people.

Kalkadoon Wars

The Kalkadoons at Battle Mountain in 1884 was a bloody conflict that claimed the lives of around 30 Indigenous Australians.


It was started by a disagreement over the use of waterholes and quickly escalated into a full-blown war.


The European settlers used guns and explosives to kill as many Indigenous people as they could.

Coniston Massacre

The Coniston Massacre of 1928 was one of the last major massacres of Indigenous Australians.


It occurred around the Coniston cattle station in the Northern Territory. Around 60 people were killed, and many more were wounded.


It was caused by a dispute over sheep grazing rights, with the European settlers wanting to drive the local Indigenous people off their land.


The violence was so severe that it led to an inquiry by the Australian government.

Further reading